BART Shout-out

Today I found myself on the fourth floor of William and June Warren Hall for a New York Attorney General's Office recruiting session. William and June Warren is shared by the Law School and the Business School. As I was walking out, the word "Berkeley" caught my attention out of the corner of my eye. I backed up to investigate. Ah-ha. It's a pamphlet for the Berkeley-Columbia Executive MBA program, with which all regular BART riders should be familiar. They don't advertise as much on this end. Either Columbia doesn't care to promote it as much, or subway ads in New York are pitched to a different clientele.

Subway ads work differently in New York than they do in the Bay Area. For one, they're a lot more prevalent in the cars and less so in stations. Station ads are pretty rare, but the ads in the cars line both walls and the ceiling in every available space. The ads also tend to be for TV shows or colleges/ESL training programs.

The other interesting thing is the way ad buys seem to work. It's rare to see a single ad for something on a subway; companies buy entire sides. So you'll walk in and, on the right, the entire wall is ads for Curb Your Enthusiasm DVDs. On the left, it's all Manhattan Borough College's business training program. But occasionally you walk in and see a wall that's a hodge-podge, so it's not neccessarily that it's a mandatory selling policy by the MTA. I guess the advertising people have decided that ads are most effective when you buy out a whole wall, like those iPod ads in the Market Street BART stops.

Along similar lines, it's interesting riding the 4-5-6 line uptown. The 4-5-6 starts in Brooklyn and ends up in the Bronx, passing through the East side of Manhattan in between. In the course of doing that, it passes through the Upper West Side, Manhattan's richest neighborhood, and East Harlem and Spanish Harlem (El Barrio), two of Manhattan's poorest neighborhoods. Moreover, it's a very sudden switch. You get to 96th Street and there are, literally, multi-million dollar townhouses on the South side of the street facing projects on the North side of the street. There's also a massive change in the subway stations. South of 96th Street, catering to the millionaire set, stations are bright and clean and well-manicured. North of 96th Street they haven't been cleaned in years, the tiles on the wall are cracked and broken and it's not uncommon to find big portions of the floor flooded and disgusting.

The trains on the 4-5-6 are somewhat surreal. Elsewhere in Manhattan you get used to the scuzzy old trains which are the MTA's backbone. They're dirty and loud and have bad speaker systems so you have no idea what the conductor's saying. I thought these were the only kinds of train New York had. Then I rode on the 4-5-6. The lighting is bright, the seats are shiny, the interior is immaculate. There's a clear and well-enunciated electronic voice (The kind that's pre-recorded by a real person, unlike the weird Stephen Hawking/Female Stephen Hawking at BART stations) announcing the stop, announcing the next stop, and telling you, in a slightly frightening sing-song, to "Stand clear of the closing doors, please." They have electronic signs announcing the line and the next stop, as well as little maps with lights to show you where along the route you are.

Obviously the 4-5-6 trains are there to please the Upper-West Side set, rather than to meet the minimum standards for the Harlem crowd. I feel like, if they could save a few pennies on it, the MTA would happily switch out trains at 96th street so that the nice uptown trains could be replaced with dingy ones, then turned around and sent on their merry way back downtown through the Upper West Side.

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This page contains a single entry by Zach published on November 4, 2005 1:23 AM.

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