Do New Yorkers Really Have To Choose Between Literature and Service Announcements?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The MTA is replacing Train of Thought with a new ad campaign designed to communicate subway service advisories and improvements to straphangers. Goodbye, Kafka and Herodotus; hello MTA service advisories.

An MTA spokesman said there wasn't enough room in subway cars for both the literary placards and the ads that the agency wants to run touting the work they're doing. 

“There’s a small percentage of ad space in the subway and bus and commuter rail system that’s reserved for the MTA,” Jeremy Soffin said. “We use it to communicate with our customers.We don’t advertise on television or in the newspapers, so this is it the one bit of space that doesn’t cost anything and we can use it to tell our customers what we’re doing in the system.”

He added that it was time for a change. “We’re overhauling how we’re doing business, and we’re taking the same approach to this space.”

It's the first time in 18 years subways have not made room for some form of literary musings and thoughtful straphangers like Manhattan's Tom Murphy is sorry to see them go.

"I see them and I appreciate them,” Murphy said. “It gives people a voice and there's room and it’s a noisy city. And anything that touches your heart and moves you in a different way is good for everybody."

The feature, not noticed by all on their travels, is something that Janet Dunne -- also from Manhattan -- suspects she will miss.

"It’s something I think that will be more noticed when it's taken away -- that you don't have that respite from being sold things or the big bustle," Dunne said.

WNYC has a suggestion. Why not combine the two? If the MTA doesn't have space for both literature and service updates, do them together.

Can you combine the wisdom of Thucydides with an announcement of signal work on the C line? Marry the wit of Mark Twain with the rehabilitation of the Dyckman Street 1 train platform?

WNYC reporter Jim O'Grady gets the ball rolling with his Dante-esque ode:

In the middle of the journey of my life,

I find myself astray in a dark wood,

Where the straight way has been lost...

...But really I'm just in the

Underground warren that is

Fulton Street station

As it undergoes a massive reconstruction

With Phase Four scheduled for completion

In March 2012

Take it away, New Yorkers. Comment below!


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Comments [12]

Shadeed Ahmad from New York, New York

There are ways to continue (and even expand) the poetry verse on the New York City subways. All the MTA has to do is dig into the creativity reserves it has for finding excuses to raise subway fares.

What is the sound of words from the MTA when it is not ripping the New York City ridership off?

Dec. 23 2010 03:15 AM
Beth from Union Square

With all due respect to Shakespeare:

Attention passengers using Spring Street Station

Trains are often delayed due to track work

And the passage connecting east and west

Stinks of human waste, greased and messed

It's the rankest compound of villainous smell that ever offended nostril

We apologize for the delays and for the olfactory hazards

Dec. 22 2010 02:45 PM

Service Announcement via Basho

"A crowded subway
is no excuse for
unlawful sexual conduct."

Chrysanthemums on water.

Dec. 22 2010 01:47 PM
Alex G from Downtown

You inspired me to whip up this Howling ode to the 9 train.

I saw the best subway lines of my generation destroyed by budget cuts
dirty, under-lit, and naked.
Dragging themselves through aging tunnels at rush hour
Looking for swifter service to Inwood.
Red circled 9 trains, good for Columbus Circle connections in the machinery of transit.
Who confusing and irrelevant to most, making skip stops across the west side of the city, contemplating jazz,
who bared their steel to snow because it is the El, passing tenement roofs illuminated,
who passed through Harlem with radiant cool headlights, passing every other stop—light benefit among the scholars of transit,
who were cancelled because crazy & scratchitti on the windows of the train ... .

Dec. 22 2010 01:22 PM
Matt Mercier

What stop this is I think I know.
My head is full of liquor though;

... The little rats must think it queer
To sit without a subway near
Between The Bronx and Ozone Park
The slowest Sunday of the year.

Check the ubiquitous service updates
To see if there is some mistake.

The station is smelly, dank and deep
But I have promises to keep.
And boroughs to go before I sleep,
And boroughs to go before I sleep.

Dec. 22 2010 12:27 PM
alex from Park Slope, Brooklyn

Some F Train Haiku:

Dec. 22 2010 12:10 PM
Alex from Park Slope, Brooklyn

Jay Street
Borough Hall
has been renamed
Jay Street
with a new transfer
Lawrence Street.
Disregard any confusion
or contusion
upon hearing the infusion
of a snoozin' train conductor's
"Next stop,
Jay Street-Borough Hall."

Dec. 22 2010 11:34 AM
Kate H. from UWS

The B train does not run on weekends!
It works during the week but suddenly
it goes completely dark after midnight on Friday
and the MTA says this is normal
but this feels more like an absence
and that absence hits me really hard
I was in such a hurry to meet you
but the subway was acting exactly like the health care system
and I ran down the stairs but in the token booth
someone has scrawled
I have ridden many substitute lines
and the C is often disgraceful
oh B train we love you please be 24/7

Dec. 22 2010 07:59 AM
Kateri Jochum from Brooklyn

you shall above all things be patient and deaf.
For if you are patient, whatever paper you carry

it will run out of print to read;and if you are deaf
whatever's screeching past you will yourself phase not.
Straphangers may nothing more than hanger's strap need:
i can entirely the train's only seat

whose attaining makes every man's (and woman's)
flesh put space on; and his (her) mind forget time

that you should ever be late, may the MTA forbid
and (in their ineptitude) your blind date spare:
for that way Manhattan lies, the island grave
called progress (work, life, hope) and the M train's dead undoom.

I'd rather learn from one subway poem tranquility
that teach ten thousand commuters how not to revolt

Dec. 22 2010 12:58 AM
Karen Chamberlain from Harlem

see something say what
the unattended package
cannot - its mute plea

Dec. 21 2010 10:07 PM
Jim O'Grady from Williamsburg

After Whitman

It avails not, neither time or place—distance avails not;

I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so many generations hence;

All of us stuck here on the L train, under the river;

as "police activity" occurs in the station ahead of us.

Dec. 21 2010 05:50 PM
faith kelly from new york city

blind tunnel without light
keep your beauty stuffed out of sight
no poetry on the tracks
to spark a glimmer
in this dumb dark winner

Dec. 21 2010 05:16 PM

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