At 14th St., the new signs express how many feel about the MTA’s upcoming service cuts. (Photo courtesy of Twitter user @kc2hmv)
Back in March, as the MTA announced the impending end of the short-lived V train, we remembered its origins in what was at the time a rather innocuous post. The comments to that post predicted the future though, and this week, the MTA is finally realizing what happens when Internet humor and sign changes mix.
As we discussed the V train, we started pondering how the new signs would read. As I said then, “The [new] FML combination at 6th Ave. and 14th St. is my favorite.” Because the MTA groups its subway bullets via trunk line on all of its signage — hence, ACE BDFM at West 4th St. — the signs at 14th St. where the L stops at 6th Ave. would all read FML, or Internet shorthand for, well, you know.
“Oh man, FML is priceless,” frequent SAS commenter AK said in March. “It is particularly apt for those poor souls on the 1,2,3, who get off at 14th believing there is an easy transfer only to find out that the transfer requires a 1100-foot walk. FML indeed.”
This little bit of online humor was all well and good in March, but apparently, no one was paying attention at the MTA. Over the weekend, as the new bullets went up at 14th St., the Sixth Ave. local/BMT Canarsie line combo signs all read FML. Immediately, New York City-based blogs, those bastions of maturity, had a field day with Transit’s profanity-laden gaffe. Take a peak at City Room or CNet or the Huffington Post or The Village Voice or Guest of a Guest or DNA Info. Ha. Ha. Ha.
By the end of the day, the MTA had already promised to change the sign. Apparently, juvenile Internet humor that relatively few riders will understand runs policy over at Transit. “As soon as we became aware of it, we were going to change it,” Charles Seaton, an agency spokesman, said to The Times. “We thought there was a certain population out there who might recognize it, even though we didn’t, obviously.”
Transit claims the costs will be low because the new signs will simply involve rearranging cheap vinyl stickers. Generally, the L will move to one side or another, and the signs will either say LFM one one line or feature two rows of bullets with the L under FM. The FML fiasco will be lost to transit lore. What makes this whole saga particularly absurd, though, is the fact that, according to Transit, the blogger outrage forced them to make the change. No rider had complained; a few had probably chuckled; but only the blogs had noticed, said Seaton. When the Internet denizens of New York picked up on something that was, three months ago, a faux pas waiting to happen, a change had to be made. If only Albany would respond that quickly to New Yorkers’ demands about their transit system, then perhaps we wouldn’t be suffering through service changes at all.
While we’re on the subject….
Since we’re nitpicking Transit’s new approach to signage by public fiat and the trials and travails of the new Sixth Ave.-bound M train, I wanted to take a minute to bring up something that’s been bugging me about the new map. Take a look at this section:
Now, as I noted above, the MTA’s practice in the past has been to group subway bullets at train stations and on the maps by trunk line. It helps riders understand which platforms they want and where particular subway routes go. But when the MTA released the new map a few weeks ago, the six stations the M will soon share with the J and Z violated that convention. Instead of listing the trains as the J/Z/M with the two Nassua St. routes grouped together, the old J/M/Z alphabetic listing ruled the day. It should not.
Either the M should be on the other side of the lines from the J/Z bullets or the M should precede or follow the brown lines. Anything else is just inconsistent. Or as the mapmakers might say, FML.