Not unlike its predecessor the token, the current paper MetroCards used in the New York City subways and buses may also go extinct. The plan is for them to be replaced with new paper fare cards labeled with ads.
The newly created cards won't even have the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) logo visible.
Yesterday the MTA announced it is opening up the opportunity for businesses, agencies and politicians to purchase ads to go on the front of public transportation fare cards.
"For those with a message and a desire to reach millions of people in a novel, attention-getting way, there is no better way to advertise," MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota said in a statement announcing the new policy.
The financially struggling agency has been selling ads on the back of its cards since 1995 reported AM New York. However, the back ads have only brought in $16,000 to $165,000 per year and finding advertisers has been tough.
The MTA MetroCard, before the new ad format comes out.
That being the situation, in addition to allowing ads to be placed on the fronts of MetroCards, the MTA also plans to reduce the price of ads for the flip side of the fare cards.
"Advertisers can now put their ads on the backs of MetroCards for just 18¢ to 51¢ per card, depending on the quantity of cards purchased. That works out to just $25,500 to $450,000. Advertising on the fronts of MetroCards would be offered at a premium," announced the MTA.
With ads on both sides of the cards, the MTA's logo may not be printed anywhere on the cards, so this is a definite trade-off, which MTA decision makers are hoping pays off.
While some are unconvinced of front ads bringing in desired revenue for the agency, this is believed to be a better option than raising transit fares.
MTA Subway tokens were used until 1994 in New York City
"I share the MTA's desire to get revenue from sources other than the fare," Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign told AM New York, "but I'm skeptical that charging premium rates from the front of MetroCards will yield a lot."
The New York Daily News notes some reactions from the business community to the MTA's strategic plan.
“Advertisers should have fun with it,” Michael Houston, managing director of the firm Grey New York said. “Clearly, riding the subway and bus is a unique experience in New York. Personal hygiene, dating services, even automotive clients could have some fun with targeted messages.”
The MTA has been trying a variety of ways to integrate advertising as a secondary source of revenue, including on turnstiles, posters, and on its website. Whether or not it brings home the bacon remains to be seen.
Many mass transit agencies are struggling financially and frequently turn to advertising to supplement revenue, including the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. The WMATA has ads in its trains, buses and in the stations. However, that agency also took another approach when it recently raised fares on July 1.
Several years ago the WMATA introduced the SmarTrip card in an effort to reduce the costs of issuing paper tickets. Travelers pay a onetime fee of $5.00 for the plastic card which is reloadable through machines located at the stations. Now with the new fares, those using paper cards pay a higher rate than those who reload the reusable fare card.