In June of 2016 the MTA announced a new four phase initiative “Operation Track Sweep” that aimed to clean the subway tracks and keep the subway stations clean. Posters were mounted on subways, such as the informative advertisement depicted, to inform subway riders of the initiative.
The poster’s use of “us” and “you” works to establish the riders and MTA as a community as well as establish a sense of commitment to the MTA, and I believe that, paired with the core idea of the initiative, this poster embeds the importance of ecological awareness into the community.
The two uses of the word “us” in the poster each imply different meanings: “a fresh start for all of us” implies that both the MTA and riders will benefit from clean trains and stations; and the standalone “us” is used to delineate what only the MTA is doing to clean the trains and stations. The poster makes a point of stating that you, the riders, have a role in keeping the subway clean. By asking “will you help?” the riders are guilt tripped into taking some responsibility for the cleanliness of the subway system.
This guilt trip works to make the riders conscious of their environmental impact, and think about how by taking the subway they are contributing to a more ecologically friendly environment. By following the ‘MTA and riders “us”’ with the ‘MTA “us”’ and ‘riders “you”,’ the language emphasizes the existence of a special community of the riders and the MTA. This campaign to clean the subways is helped by reinforcing a sense of community, as members of a community are more likely to want to help their community, and thus riders will want to help keep the subways clean. This marks a change in perception of the MTA from being just a service provider to being a part of a community.
The MTA uploaded a video “Operation Track Sweep” on August 5th, 2016, which continues to use language that highlights the various mentioned communities between the MTA and its riders.
The video is narrated from the perspective of an average MTA worker, as designated by the animated narrator looking identical to the other animated MTA workers in the video. The narrator adopts a casual tone to speak on behalf of the MTA, implying at a core level that the MTA understands the average rider’s perspective. The video changes some of the specific language from the poster while maintaining the community oriented language to show how the MTA and its riders “us” are affected by littering, what the MTA “us” is doing to clean the subway, and how the riders “you” can help keep the subways clean.
The video opens by establishing littering as an issue that affects everyone on the subways: “Look, we all know that trash on the tracks causes fires, and that fires cause train delays, and I don’t know about you but I get frustrated when my train is late.” Late trains are the plight of New York commuters, so the casual tone mixed with the sense of understanding works to make viewers more supportive of the MTA’s cleaning efforts, which are listed soon after, and more willing to do their own part in keeping subways clean in the first place, as suggested at the end of the video.
The narrator describes what the MTA “us” is doing to clean the subways of trash, with manual clean ups of every station, distributing portable “track-vacs” for quickly cleaning future messes, and introducing more vacuum trains to systematically clean the stations over time. These acts are depicted in the video as shown in the above slideshow.
The video ends with a casual suggestion to the riders “you” by reminding them that they are a part of the MTA and riders “us” community: “But at the end of the day, keeping things clean and reducing track fires is up to all of us. We gotta either take our trash with us or use the cans.” The riders “you” have been established to be in the MTA and riders “us” community, so addressing the riders as “us” and “we” works to strengthen this bond.
The final shot of the video is the Operation Track Sweep slogan “a fresh start for all of us,” serving as a final reminder that both the MTA and its riders must cooperate to keep the subways clean. By keeping the subways clean and running in an ideal way, the customers are benefitted by faster train times, and the MTA is benefitted by higher customer satisfaction likely leading to continued use of the subways and more revenue.
By connecting the idea of ecological wellbeing to the MTA and riders “us” community, the poster and video work to make riders feel better about their environmental impact and their reduced carbon footprint as a result of taking mass transit, which cycles back into making them more keen upon staying in the community and continuing to ride the subway. This is a positive feedback loop which is beneficial for both the MTA and its riders.