There comes a moment in every New Yorker's life in which they have to decide if this city is worth the fight. Sometimes, it's a rent increase. Other times, it's a lost job, a broken relationship, or a 40-word Joan Didion sentence. Well, friends, my moment has come—the MTA announced today they'll be installing digital screens in subway cars to display ads. Soon, you could be trapped in that terrible tunnel approaching the Manhattan Bridge forced to watch an unending loop of ads, just like that episode of Black Mirror where the dude from Get Out tries to keep the chick from Downton Abbey out of the porn industry, and just contemplating this miserable future is making anxiety hives bubble on my wrist.
Today the MTA announced a partnership with OUTFRONT Media to install over 9,500 digital screens "that provide both advertising and customer communications" above and inside subway stations and on subway platforms. Some of these screens will provide information for commuters, much like the touchscreen maps already available at many subway stations. Others will replace paper ads, making it harder for budding artists to add their own decoration.
some quality graffiti on this subway ad pic.twitter.com/EbrpkUVG3T
— Ivor Tossell (@ivortossell) March 26, 2017
Videos on the platform are annoying, but avoidable—the real crux here is that OUTFRONT Media plans to stick 31,000 screens in 5,134 subway cars, transforming your commuting experience into THIS:
I suppose that in the year 2017 you should, by now, be conditioned to ignore omnipresent video screens. These subway screens (which will also show up on Metro-North and the LIRR, sorry suburbanites!) don't appear to play sound, unlike those abhorrent taxi televisions, plus we aren't paying for them—according to the MTA, OUTFRONT Media will front the costs and recoup them from ad revenue. Some Q trains already have video ads hawking the Second Avenue Subway.
And though video ads may seem more distracting than still ones, other public transit systems have moving displays (WITH SOUND), and commuters appear to have survived. "Eventually you learn to tune them out, same as the paper ones," Cooper Lund, who spent six months living among the blaring video ads on busses and metros outside of Nanchang in China's Jiangxi province, told Gothamist.
Still, with subway commutes turning into daily exercises in not having panic attacks in public, the thought of getting trapped underground with StreetEasy ads dancing around you like those hologram people in the animated version of Anastasia is unpleasant, to say the least. Dr. Zizmor needs to stay still where I can see him.
The MTA confirmed the videos will have no sound, just images, and programming will include advertising, customer service information, train status updates and emergency information. We'll get a chunk of these screens by the end of 2019 and the rest by 2022. Until then, take comfort in knowing we're still a couple of years away from going full Minority Report.