I grew up at 91st and Broadway, and for the city’s subway buffs, that intersection holds a special place in our hearts for it is the location of the one of the city’s abandoned subway stops. Once a local stop along the West Side IRT, the TA shuttered this station in 1959 when the southbound extension of 96th St. left 91st St. as an unnecessary relic of another age. While the Transit Museum once offered tours of the station, these days it is a dimly lit gallery for graffiti artists and history buffs who know where to look as the 1 travels between 86th and 96th Streets.
This station at 91st St. is hardly New York’s only abandoned platform still visible to the general public. Along the East Side, Worth St. and 18th St., both of which met a similar fate as 91st St., remain in place, covered by decades of neglect. The City Hall loop is visible for those who ride around the loop on the 6, and the Hoyt-Schermerhorn platforms are on full display for another waiting for an A, C or G train. Joe Brennan’s site has everything you’ve ever wanted to know about these abandoned stations and more.
The MTA has, now and then, debated what to do with these stations. Due to safety and liability concerns, they remain off limits to the general public, and a plan to turn City Hall into a Transit Museum annex were quashed by Mayor Giuliani over security concerns. Instead of anything, they are nothing but barely remembered parts of subway history. They could however find a second life with some creativity.
New York’s isn’t the only subway system with abandoned stations. In Paris, in particular, the twists and turns of their tunnels are laden with ghost stations, and now in the City of Light, they’re putting these stations to use with a twist Madison Ave. would appreciate. Ridley Scott’s Prometheus is set to take the movie world by storm. A quasi-prequel to the Alien series, the film has a mythology all its own, and the viral marketing campaigns have been widespread and effective. As numerous movie sites reported this week, a new campaign has opened in the Saint-Martin station. Closed since just after World War II, this station now features giant heads and lighting straight out of the movie.
Fox has issued a press release promoting the use of this station as a blank slate for its advertising efforts. They discuss using the subterranean station to recreate movie sets. The curvature of the ceiling and the dim lighting are ideal for such a usage, and Paris Metro riders seem to love it. The studio has also paid Metro to slap the movie’s logos on strip maps in the Line 9 subway cars.
So let’s see it, New York. Our abandoned stations, not in the greatest of shape right now, could be great springboards for innovating in-tunnel advertising. Generally, the stations are located close enough to nearby stations that trains don’t go zooming past them. It’s always possible to spy 91st St. at a reasonable speed, for instance, and something creative in that space would certainly draw headlines and eyeballs.
On Thursday, I rode a shuttle fully wrapped in advertising for something in Switzerland. Even though I rode the same train twice in the span of an hour, I couldn’t tell you what I saw. But these Prometheus heads would stick with me. It’s a memorable use of an intriguing spot and a revenue opportunity worth pursuing.
After the jump, a viral video of the viral marketing in the Paris Metro.