Vending machines loaded with snacks and travel-sized toiletries may replace newsstands at subway stations across the city, according to the MTA.
The cash-strapped MTA is looking to fill its subterranean retail spaces with vending machines in response to a decline in rider spending at human-run stands hawking newspapers, magazines, and candy. The high-tech machines are part of a multi-pronged approach to modernize the subway’s 326 retail spaces—40 percent of which are empty. The Daily News first reported the initiative.
“As part of a broader push for innovation and in response to the changing needs of our customers, we’re reimagining what retail in the subway looks like,” Janno Lieber, the MTA’s chief development officer, told Curbed.
The transit agency has 86 retail spaces up for rent, several of which could be filled with the high-end, airport-style vending machines that will pop up on subway mezzanines starting this summer with products driven by the market, according to the MTA. Other options include pop-up shops, retail malls like the Turnstyle project at Columbus Circle, and new advertising on the thousands of digital screens launching across the system.
The vending machine concept isn’t exactly new. Subway systems across Asia and Europe have installed vending machines in stations and the Chicago Transportation Authority recently announced it will add machines that offer food and phone charging, and that even serve as photo booths on El platforms this spring, the News notes.
Existing newsstands will stay in business, and in some cases the MTA will simply decommission unused spaces to give commuters on high-traffic platforms more room to maneuver, says the MTA.
Transit officials have yet to settle on exactly how many vending machines will be install in the system, but aims for the new tech to generate sorely needed revenue for the system’s deteriorating infrastructure.