HERALD SQUARE — This subway ride has been brought to you by the letters B, D, F, M and...The Gap.
For the first time in 15 years, the iconic gold-and-blue swipe cards used to pay for subway rides on the MTA will occasionally don an advertisement for a clothing store, instead of the blocky "MetroCard" lettering
In another bid to infuse the cash-strapped transit authority with much-needed capital, the agency announced in July it would stop selling advertising space on the back of MetroCards through an intermediary, and would start selling the space itself — and that the marquee slot on the front of cards was now up for grabs.
The big change started Sunday, as the new cards made their way into the hands of straphangers.
The debut card — which offers holders a 20 percent coupon to The Gap's renovated flagship store in Herald Square good through November 18 — will be randomly issued at machines in Manhattan stations in proximity to the store, but riders can request the card from station agents while supplies last. Cards with the new ads will comprise 10 percent of the total sold system wide.
"Since we first announced that we would accept branded MetroCards, our phones have been ringing non-stop with inquires," said Paul J. Fleuranges, the MTA's Senior Director of Corporate and Internal Communications.
He said future cards would appear in December, and feature a call to action to riders, like coupons or discounts.
"Not only is this a great use of the card as an advertising medium, but it gives our riders access to special discounts at retailers, which can be a substantial financial benefit," he said.
"We look forward to seeing how creative advertisers can get with the card," said Fleuranges.
In the past, the agency said it had never earned more than $165,000 a year for advertising in just the white space on the back of the MetroCards — despite placing more than 100 million of the cards in the hands of consumers annually.
The current and more pervasive card's gold design, which was first released in July of 1997, when the city announced MetroCards could be then used on all buses and subways with free transfers between the two, mimicked the very first MetroCards which came out in 1993 and had blue backgrounds and gold letters.
The new Gap cards feature a blue background also, but have white and multicolor letters spelling out "Be Bright, NYC."
To find the Gap MetroCards, visit one of the following stations: 14th Street-Union Square; any of the three 34th Street stations; 42nd Street-Grand Central; 59th Street at either Columbus Circle or Lexington Avenue; 86th Street 4, 5, 6; Lexington Avenue E, M; or the Times Square-42nd Street N, Q, R, S, 1, 2, 3, 7.