New York City Mayor Eric Adams, New York Governor Kathy Hochul, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) today unveiled “Subway Surfing Kills – Ride Inside, Stay Alive” — a new comprehensive, multi-channel public information campaign in partnership with the New York City Department of Education (DOE), the New York City Police Department (NYPD), and the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD). The new campaign centers around, is designed for, and was created by New York City teenagers — putting the youth voice front and center in a peer-to-peer effort to deter this dangerous behavior among young people.
“Each subway surfing death takes tragically strips young New Yorkers of promising futures said Mayor Adams. “We cannot endure another tragedy on our trains. That is why we are partnering with the MTA on an innovative campaign to raise awareness, and we have recruited true social media experts to help lead it: young New Yorkers. Our young people know best how to reach their peers, and they want to help keep their friends safe. We will make sure that every young New Yorker understands: ‘Subway Surfing Kills – Ride Inside, Stay Alive.’”
“The safety of New Yorkers is my top priority,” Governor Hochul said. “Through this innovative partnership, young New Yorkers will hear directly from their teachers and peers about the extreme danger of subway surfing, saving lives and preventing more tragedies. New York will continue to do everything we can to keep our young people safe on the subways.”
“Riding outside a train car is subway stupidity and never ends well,” said MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber. “We are begging parents to speak with their children and teachers to talk to their students about what can seem like a game but can end in tragedy. I want to thank Governor Hochul, Mayor Adams, and our city agency partners for their strong support in raising awareness about the dangers of this so that we can prevent any more young lives being senselessly lost.”
“A viral video is not worth your life,” said DOE Chancellor David C. Banks. “Led by students from the High School of Art and Design, this campaign is truly made by students, for students, and I’m so proud of all the work and advocacy that has been done by our young people. Subway surfing kills, and far too many of our bright young students have died due to this trend. Today, and every day, I’m urging every child to ride inside and stay alive.”
“Our message to New York City’s youth is clear: Always ride inside the train,” said NYPD Commissioner Edward A. Caban. “Subway surfing is dangerous, it is illegal, and it can be lethal. The NYPD will continue to do everything we can to stop this reckless behavior — but it starts with sound decision making. So be smart, be safe, and always ride inside the train.”
“The urgent message of this campaign is clear — subway surfing is irresponsible and dangerous, and it can be deadly,” said DYCD Commissioner Keith Howard. “Life is to be celebrated but not atop a subway car. Young people need to seriously consider the risks and the pain and suffering of loved ones left to care for them or grieve. We are asking the public to join the mayor and our partners in saving lives by reporting subway surfing, and we are encouraging peers to have those difficult but persuasive conversations with friends engaged in reckless behavior.”
“Subway Surfing Kills – Ride Inside, Stay Alive” will include public service announcements in stations recorded by students; digital signage across stations; student-created graphics and animations; posters and banners across stations and distributed in schools; physical palm cards distributed at schools and in stations; school swag including planners, pens and pencils, notepads, and sticky notes; social media posts across platforms including TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube in the form of posts, reels/shorts, and influencer collaborations; distribution of new student MetroCards accompanied by a “Subway Surfing Kills — Ride Inside, Stay Alive” palm card; and anti-surfing messages on the back of some MetroCards for sale in subway station MetroCard vending machines. Meta, Google, and TikTok are also making space available on their platforms to help amplify the new messaging campaign. Through a partnership with Governor Hochul’s office, Google is making space available for the campaign to play on YouTube.
Starting in early July 2023, a group of five recent graduates from the High School of Art and Design on the East Side of Manhattan were asked to create graphics, animations, and messaging for trains, stations, and schools that address subway surfing along with calls to action. The student-led “Subway Squad” developed digital posters, animatics, voice announcements, and social media strategies for the campaign. An offshoot of the DOE Office of Student Pathways’ Summer Design Institute, the Subway Squad is comprised of a graphics team (Milana Blokhina, Maksymilian Rychlicki, and Nicholas Setiawan) and animation team (Langening-Arum Ratmansunu and Dalma Chiclayo) whose message and designs will be made visible and audible in subway cars and subway stations, as well as on social media.
The NYPD is contributing to the campaign by deploying officers to stations on outdoor elevated lines and by conducting home visits with youths who have been observed riding outside of trains. In 2023, the NYPD has already taken enforcement action on 87 subway surfers — nearly tripling its enforcement from 2022. The NYPD conducted 69 home visits to known subway surfers between April and June this year, and had follow-up conversations with the guardians of all 82 youth against whom NYPD took enforcement action for subway surfing. There have been five fatalities due to suspected subway surfing in 2023, compared to five total fatalities between 2018 and 2022. The MTA has documented over 450 instances of people riding outside of trains between January and June in 2023.
“A core connecting value of public schools, transit bureau and the MTA is keeping people safe and getting where they need to be in life. Our summer design institute team, the Subway Squad, rose to the occasion in every way using a design thinking approach and empathy-forward design strategies,” said Art and Design High School Principal and Subway Squad Creative Director Maximillian Re-Suigura. “We’re using the voices of young people to reach other young people in making good decisions. Safe decisions. This campaign is proof that students from Art and Design and all New York City public schools can compete with any agency in developing strategies and deliverables that make a difference.”
“I am so proud of the work my fellow students at Art and Design, and I did this summer to create this campaign alongside city leadership,” said Milana Blokhina, student, Art and Design High School. “With the campaign now being implemented, it is so fulfilling to know that we contributed to something bigger: the safety of fellow New Yorkers and all who travel in our subways. We hope that the work we have accomplished is proof of the creative capacity of New York City public school students and highlights the importance of design for the greater good.”
“The growing number of tragedies related to subway surfing is concerning,” said New York City Council Member Oswald Feliz. “Subway surfing is dangerous, and we must do everything we can to deter such conduct — including taking steps to ensure our youth know these actions are extremely dangerous and not worth it. I applaud Mayor Adams and the MTA on taking steps to help resolve this growing threat.”
“Educating our youth about the dangers of subway surfing will help prevent unnecessary tragic accidents,” said New York City Council Member Julie Menin. “By amplifying teenagers voices through this campaign, we are creating a peer-to-peer force that will steer our youth away from danger. Thank you, Mayor Adams and the MTA, for investing resources to deter hazardous behavior.”
“Modern technology has changed the way New Yorkers live and interact with the city around us, improving our lives in many ways while at times presenting unforeseen challenges,” said Julie Samuels, president and executive director, Tech:NYC. “We are encouraged to see tech companies work closely with the city and state governments to address these challenges, and we applaud those who came together to stop the dangerous subway surfing trend. The tech community is proud to work with city leaders and public safety officials to help keep New Yorkers safe.”