MTA Looks to Sell Ad Space in Subway Tunnels

Transit officials hope plan will raise millions in revenue

By Andrew Siff
|  Wednesday, Mar 16, 2011  |  Updated 8:56 AM EDT
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The MTA is considering installing animated subway ads to avoid raising fares.

The MTA is considering installing animated subway ads to avoid raising fares.

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Next stop: the bank.

The MTA is planning a new way to raise cash -- ads between stations. That's right, those long, dark tunnels would be lit up and plastered with sponsored images.

Passengers already bombarded with ads inside the train would look out the windows and see a series of images, seemingly static until the motion of the train springs them to life, like a flip book.

The first tunnel to potentially get the new-age commercial would be the Times Square shuttle, in a pilot project.

"The MTA could raise between $100,000 and $1 million a year," said Aaron Donovan, an MTA spokesman.

If the shuttle project is a success, there could be tens of millions of dollars in untapped revenue out there in between the city's hundreds of stations. The potential cash bonanza would be welcomed at the always budget-challenged transit authority, where chairman Jay Walder has vowed not to raise fares or slash service anytime soon.

The flip book-style advertising is already up and running on some parts of the PATH train, as well as in transit systems in other cities, like the Tokyo subway.

And the MTA has allowed a public art project, visible to riders on the B and Q train when crossing the Manhattan Bridge towards Dekalb Avenue.

The proposed tunnel ads aren't attracting much opposition, at least so far. Longtime critics of cluttering up the system with ads have softened their views in this punishing economy.

"Given how tough the economic times are, I'm more tolerant of it,"  said Gene Russianoff, a riders advocate from the Straphangers Campaign.

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