21 Oct 2008 7:29 am   //   Filed under: Transit

This ad will be running on the local track

Starting last week, I started noticing subway trains with long, horizontal ad stickers on the outside – The History Channel is the first advertiser. So far the ads are only on the IRT lines… I saw one adver-train on the 7 line last week, and on the 1 line yesterday.

Hey, why not? Until the 1980s, the New York City subway was the canvas of graffiti artists. These days, people think fondly of street art (and collect it in galleries!) but I understand that back then it wasn’t so. The vandalized subway was a symbol of the disorder and crime that plagued the city. The victory against subway graffiti – a war fought with manpower and chemistry, in the form of paint remover – is now considered a watershed moment. The city is safer now. The trains cruise unadorned, just cars of stainless steel with minimal decals on the outside (American flag, MTA logo, car number).

So why mess with a good thing? We need the money, that’s why. The subway system is already a commercial zone – there are ad posters in practically every station and inside every car. (Remy cognac just plastered the whole Broadway-Lafayette station with a particularly tasteless campaign.) The 42nd Street Shuttle (a short train that only makes 2 stops) has been getting occasional inside-out ad wraps for a couple of years.

Other railroads, including the Washington Metro and Amtrak, sell ad wraps on the outside of trains, and it seems like a logical step. The Times has a story about all the new ad techniques the MTA is trying to help make up for a budget shortfall.