20 Feb 2008 8:00 am   //   Filed under: Transit

In appreciation of subway posters

I collect subway posters, the ones that tell you to pick up trash, or not to board the train if you’re sick. I also have a couple of the service change signs, like the ones that inform you that your train will not be running this weekend, or will run only every 34 minutes.

There are rules. I will only take a poster if it is not affixed behind plastic and it is no longer timely. My most recent prize is a sign encouraging Giants fans to ride the subway to the Super Bowl victory parade (peeled from a station pillar the evening after the parade). I still regret never having obtained one of the famous post-9/11 “If you see something, say something” posters.

subwayposter.jpgRecently, a subway poster appeared advising passengers not to leave newspapers on the train. It says, “Please put it in a trash can; that’s good news for everyone.” The Times had an article this week on the sign writer’s use of the semicolon (note the humorous correction at the bottom of the article). Evidently every writer in the city noticed that semicolon; nobody else did.

I tend to pay more attention to the design. Lately the subway poster designers have favored large photos, like one of a hapless, plaid-shirted passenger trying to force his way though a closing subway door. Another shows a guy subway surfing, or holding onto the outside of a moving train. (“This may be the last ride of his life.”)

Best was the brief time when the designs, like the one pictured here, seemed to be inspired by communist propaganda posters.