New Yorkers Get TVs On Subway
LIANE HANSEN, host:
In New York City, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is experimenting with new ways to raise revenue. The MTA has installed small, ten-by-ten-inch video screens in every car of the subway shuttle that runs between Times Square and Grand Central terminal. And the cable TV network TBS is paying to air its coverage of Major League Baseball playoff games.
NPR's Margot Adler went for a ride and sent this report.
(Soundbite of bell ringing)
MARGOT ADLER: The shuttle ride is short. From the time you walk into the car and get a seat, if you can, to the time the journey ends, it's a mere two minutes and change. Since this is New York 90 percent of the people don't even seem to notice that the car is painted inside and out with baseball players up at bat, even the seats have been repainted. There are four small video screens in each car, and they are showing various baseball plays and advertising the playoffs that begin in October.
Only a few people look up. And most who do, quickly return to their thoughts, their newspaper, or their book. Aaron Donovan, an MTA spokesman says a decrease in tax revenue has led the MTA to look at other ways they can raise income.
Mr. AARON DONAVAN (Spokesman, MTA): We are leaning more and more toward novel forms of advertising, away from the traditional posters or signs and more towards digital advertising, what's called a station domination package where an advertiser will purchase every square inch of space in a station.
ADLER: And moving images. Back on the shuttle, riders like Dutch Vega, Melanie Waddell and Ryan Ahuja think these new video screens are just fine.
Mr. DUTCH VEGA: It's interesting. I like to watch baseball games in the middle of my ride.
Ms. MELANIE WADDELL: I think it's pretty cool.
ADLER: What do you guys think of the video?
Ms. WADDELL: Good.
ADLER: Yeah, a like a little entertainment for our quick shuttle ride?
Mr. RYAN AHUJA: It's awesome. It reminds everyone that baseball is important to this country.
ADLER: Others had somewhat sardonic comments, like Eric Pomoranz who's riding with his small son.
Mr. ERIC POMORANZ: I think subway cars were the last place you could not watch a video and now that's over and done with. We'll probably be having videos floating in midair in 20 years.
ADLER: His son disagrees.
CHILD: I sort of like it.
ADLER: People were less critical on the train than the comments on the Web following a New York Times article. People wrote, this is disgraceful, this is evil; more TV-ification of public space; haven't we had enough ceaseless onboard entertainment every time we enter a taxicab?
Cabs have had blaring video screens for several years. Some people said it would be small price to pay if it kept fares low, but Aaron Donovan, the MTA spokesman, said unfortunately it's not enough for that, with advertising:
Mr. DONOVAN: We raise about $100 million per year. We have an $11 billion budget.
ADLER: Before I got off the train, I spoke to Ralph Arlyck a documentary filmmaker. It's just another mitigated experience, he said. In other words, diminished, watered down, not the real thing. But when the Yankees are in the playoffs, the amount of interest here may go way up.
Margot Adler, NPR News, New York.