The MTA voted Wednesday to ban alcohol ads across the entire transit system, bowing to pressure from health advocates who argue that the ads target teens and lower-income families, leading to alcohol problems.
The vote allows alcohol ads that are already up to stay up until the contract expires. But starting Jan. 1, no new alcohol ads will be allowed.
The decision will cost the MTA $2.5 million in ad revenue. But for advocates who lobbied for years to get rid of them, it's a major victory.
"Alcohol ads are not a trivial matter," said Dahlia Goldenberg of the group Building Alcohol Ad-Free Transit. "They increase underage drinking, fights, suicide and teenager pregnancy... and they're more likely to cause problems later in life."
Board members noted that the MTA banned cigarette ads 25 years ago. City lawmakers who helped pressure the MTA said the ads on the subways, in stations and on Metro-North and LIRR trains found a captive audience.
"Alcohol brands were effectively placing their adds in routes frequently traveled by youngsters," said councilman Robert Cornegy.
But many riders shrugged at the ban.
"I think that's silly," said Malcolm King of Staten Island. "You can't cover it up and say 'no underage people will drink.' That's not really how it works."
With the disappearance of a $2.5 million revenue stream, the MTA chair says getting the money back could take a couple of years -- a challenge at a time when the MTA says it can't even make emergency repairs without millions of dollars. MTA Chairman Joe Lhota says the best way to recoup the money is to run the trains properly.
"When people here at the MTA make the subway better, people will want to advertise more," he said.
Certain Metro-North trains on the New Haven line will be exempt from the ban because they are owned by the state of Connecticut.