I was kind of surprised some weeks ago when I walked into the Hollywood/Highland Metro station and saw that the place was plastered with ads for a new line of cars from Ford. Not that I was surprised to see advertising in a Metro station. That’s become pretty routine, and even though I think some of the ads are intrusive and obnoxious, I’ve accepted it because I know the MTA needs the revenue
But advertising cars at subway stops? Isn’t that sending mixed messages to Metro riders? I thought we were supposed to be discouraging Angelenos from driving and encouraging them to take public transit. I don’t know how many subway riders will go out and buy cars because of this campaign, but Ford must think they can line up some customers or they wouldn’t have spent the money.
This seems especially troubling at a time when transit ridership is dropping. Nobody’s sure exactly why this is happening, but with many MTA lines seeing a decline in the number of riders, do we really want to be tempting the people who do ride the subway with ads for affordable cars?
I know the MTA is dealing with an operating deficit, and the ad revenue is probably really helpful, but I still have to question the wisdom of this strategy. It used to be the MTA was telling us, “Dump your car. Ride public transit.” Now it seems the message is, “Go ahead and get a car. We give up.”
I wondered why the drop in transit use too. In my case, as bike infrastructure has improved I’ve drastically cut my own use. And I deliver groceries for Yummy who, along with other delivery services, make leaving the house less of a necessity for many.
Hopefully somebody is researching the reasons for the drop in ridership. I’ve heard a few things suggested, including fare increases, falling gas prices, and the rising popularity of ride-hailing services. We really need to figure out the causes in order to plan for the future.
I think ride-hailing has to be a large part of it but anecdotally, as a former Lyft driver, most users of those services are former taxi users or motorist whose cars are in the shop. No customer ever told me that they were former public transit users and many bemoaned the fact that unlike in other cities, there is no public transit here (which I of course pointed out is untrue).