Once upon a time, riding the New York City subway was a refreshingly analog experience, without things like Wi-Fi—or, hell, even smartphones—providing distraction. People had to read books or even (gasp!) newspapers if they wanted to tune out and avoid eye contact with their fellow commuters.
But those days are long gone, and while some of the technological innovations that have been put in place are a good thing—hello, countdown clocks—others just really never needed to happen. (See: cell service below-ground, because can’t there be one place where you don’t accidentally eavesdrop on someone’s phone conversation?)
To the latter category comes digital screens in the subway system, which sound good in theory but will, in practice, provide a new assault on the senses—namely, digitized advertisements within subway cars. (h/t Gothamist)
The MTA announced that it will partner with OUTFRONT Media on the initiative, which “will provide enhanced customer information at stations and on trains, as well as new opportunities for revenue generating advertising,” per a press release.
The MTA has a video of what this brave new subway world might look like:
Customer information, i.e. things that can actually be useful to riders: good. Advertising: kind of creepy! (The MTA also says that traditional advertising will be reduced, so say goodbye to Dr. Zizmor while you still can.)
In terms of numbers, OUTFRONT will install some 17,000 digital screens throughout the transit system by 2019, with the bulk (close to 10,000) going in subway stations. Some will be placed on top of subway station entrances, and some will go on station platforms; about 5,134 subway cars will also eventually be equipped with these new displays.
As for the cost, a press release from the MTA notes that OUTFRONT will bear the brunt of it; “the capital cost of such network, estimated to exceed $800 million over the 15-year term, will be borne by OUTFRONT and recovered from advertising revenues,” per the agency.