For the first time, companies will be allowed to buy space, not just on the back of bus and subway fare cards, but on the fronts of as well, the agency said Wednesday.
“Millions of New Yorkers carry MetroCards with them everywhere they go, and use them multiple times a day,” MTA Chair Joseph Lhota said in a statement announcing the initiative.
“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,” he said.
The MetroCard design “has remained virtually unaltered” since it was introduced back in 1997. Advertising was first introduced on the cards nearly two decades ago, in 1995.
The MTA did not immediately reveal how much the new front ads would cost.
The agency said it has never earned more than $165,000 a year for advertising in the white space on the back of the MetroCards — despite placing more than 100 million of the cards in the hands of consumers annually.
To attract more ads on the back of cards, the MTA said it would lower the price to advertise on the backs of cards to approximately 18 to 51 cents per card and would eliminate many of the free ads currently appearing there.
Despite announcing tha advertising pricing would fall, the agency said it was unable to provide the current pricing.
The effort is part of a larger push by the authority to boost its advertising revenue, which had included allowing companies to wrap the inside and outside of trains with ads and installing new digital advertising inside of stations and around entrances.
Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, said he welcomed any effort that helped pay for better service, but doubted the initiative would have much of an impact.
"I share the MTA's desire to get more revenue from sources other than the fare, but I am skeptical that charging premium rates for the front of MetroCards will yield a lot," he said.