[UPDATE BELOW] A tipster sent in the above photo, which was taken at the East 180th Street Yard in the Bronx two weeks ago and shows one subway car tagged up like it's the goddamn 1980s or something. The maintenance facility is "currently home of the R142s for the 5 train"... and also this beauty.
We reached out to the MTA's Adam Lisberg, who told us cars are cleaned before re-entering passenger service—"No train with graffiti is ever allowed to carry customers. If you ever see one in service, it’s running without passengers directly to a yard where it can be cleaned."
We also inquired about how often this happens (we spotted a couple last year), and Lisberg tells us, "Pretty rarely. Handful each year max." However, the Daily News reported in January that "at least nine" subways were hit "in the first 11 days of the year." One tagger wrote: "“MTA You are slacken.”
It should be noted that the MTA does not like this kind of thing to be publicized, as they believe that encourages others to take part. Back in the 1980s, the Vandal Squad was constantly putting out fires, with trains getting tagged inside and out:
UPDATE: Bucky Turco of Animal has informed us that this photo was shot by photographer Aymann Ismail, who was on the scene after this and another subway car were spotted with tags in the yard. Animal had reported that "at least two trains had been tagged by the likes of SEN, ORUS and SHADE SNAQUE. The graffiti experts we spoke to said the style of the pieces were definitely not indigenous to the city, or good, and after some Internet sleuthing, we feel comfortable in reporting that they’re from Barcelona’s OTP crew. These writers continue a long held tradition of coming to New York and painting a train just for the flick." Another train was hit with a Spy vs. Spy theme just after this one.