The other night I rode this giant white box of advertising home from downtown San Francisco. Look closely though – its actually a MUNI light rail car in disguise, covered from front to back, window to window, with advertising for Pixar’s newest animated film, Wall-E. I had seen these decorated trains before and thought it was some creative and good ad work. Can you guess how my perspective changed a bit after riding one?
Just as one would assume from seeing the outside of one of these trains, it was nearly impossible to see outside the windows from inside the car at night. Thankfully I’ve ridden the line enough times to be comfortable with my own stop. Others clearly weren’t, and I sat there helpless, watching people squint and struggle and scowl in frustration trying to read blurry street signs and store-front lights through the painted windows. Who knows how many folks were made late to wherever they were going because of misinterpreting their distorted surroundings and getting off at the wrong stop! On the other hand, with a dozen or so of these cars around the city, I’m sure they helped raise movie attendance — that is assuming most people didn’t try to take these trains to the theatre.
It’s a painful case of conflicting interests: advertising vs. a sane commuter experience. There were no winners this day.