In what it says is a response to a “changing market,” the New York City Subway is repurposing vacant retail spaces, including newsstands, within its 472 stations as demand for print publications and unhealthy items like cigarettes and candy declines.
One possibility for these empty spaces, which reports say amount to about 130 locations, is installing high-end, airport-style vending machines, which will appear on mezzanines this summer with products “driven by the market,” according to one source.
There are 86 empty retail spaces out to bid, according to the New York Daily News. Some of these spaces may end up with vending machines, but the exact number remains to be seen. Examples of items available for purchase include snacks and toiletries.
This is only applicable to empty spaces, however. Existing newsstands will stay in business.
An MTA rep said additional potential applications include pop-up shops; partnerships “with local institutions with brand recognition;” new display advertising space, including thousands more digital screens; full-scale mall-like offerings like Turnstyle at Columbus Circle or the Fulton Center; and even—wait for it—to allow for more space for customer flow or employee workspace.
“We’re decommissioning some unused space to give more space to customers on platforms because of historically high levels of ridership,” the rep said.
He called these new applications “uses that are dynamic and useful for our customers” as the retail market changes.
But it’s also frankly because the MTA needs money.
“Vending machines are just one part of a much larger, multipronged approach we’re taking to modernize Subway retail spaces and how we earn revenue in the Subway system,” the rep said.
Just last month, the MTA board voted to raise fares as state lawmakers reportedly decide whether to approve new revenue streams to overcome budget deficits and pay for much-needed repairs.