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Fiona Wong Kat Gonso College Writing 29 January 2014 Rhetorical Analysis on MTAs Public Service Announcement In response to the rising numbers of death by trains, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, New York Citys public transportation system, launched a visual information campaign (Railway Tracks). Onehundred forty-one people were struck by trains because they jumped in front of an
A PSA displayed behind transit glass, replacing ads about upcoming movies and television shows, online education, new restaurants, etc.

arriving train, accidentally fell on to the

tracks, or suddenly pushed. Of that number, fifty-five were killed, (MTA). Though 2013

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statistics shows that the majority of deaths [were] suicides, a change from last year (Martin), Adam Lisberg says, Thats never a reason not to try to prevent these deaths, (Taylor). Determined to put a stop to the disturbing trend, posters were plastered throughout trains and subway stations, warning commuters not to stand near the platform edge and to take caution. The MTA has continuously printed posters to announce service changes and holiday schedules, but it was the first time I encountered a public service announcement regarding personal safety taking the train to school. Born and raised in New York City, I have previously heard of people hit by trains, but was still initially shocked by the statistics typed on the public service announcement poster because the news only covered two or three of the stories. Telling readers to be careful when waiting on train platforms, it says not to become a statistic, (MTA). It instructs people to stand back (MTA) behind the yellow strip so that even if someone shoves you purposely or accidentally, there is enough distance not to roll on to the tracks. It tells readers to be smart (MTA) by being aware of who and what is going on around them. The MTAs call to write is the hope of preventing any more train-related accidents. The rhetor addresses this issue because it is becoming more frequent and the urgency here is actually saving peoples lives. The writer identifies the issues involved by giving readers statistics to raise awareness, warnings, and instructions to be safe. These posters on platform safety can be found on their website or even Google Images. The MTA also extends their campaigns message through YouTube videos and twenty-second vocal announcements played during the train ride in between stops. However, the programs purpose does not stop at advising people to be cautious. Using the same statistics and style of words, the Drop Something? (MTA) and See Someone at

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Two extensions of the platform safety campaign found on MTAs official site call commuters to ask for help.

Risk? (MTA) posters are also a part of the platform safety campaign. People have accidentally dropped phones and wallets on to the railway tracks, and have been hit by arriving trains because they attempted to retrieve their fallen belonging and failed to climb out in time. The Drop Something (MTA) poster reminds commuters that their life and physical safety are more precious than those replaceable items. Accidents have also happened where people who were under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or ill passed out and fell four feet down to the train tracks. In addition to keeping ourselves safe, the MTA invites readers to help keep fellow commuters safe. Instead of having readers handle the situation and putting themselves in

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potential danger, the different posters instruct people to ask a police officer, train or station personnel (MTA) for help. Having seen the campaigns various posters taped to several pillars on platforms and slipped between glass transit displays on trains, it is safe to say that the intended audience is commuters. However, commuters cover a wide range of people because the most convenient and affordable way to travel to and from one destination to the next in New York City is to take public transportation. The campaign is targeted at regular commuters, first-time commuters, the homeless, students, businessmen, the young, the elderly, residents, and tourists. Because of public transportations ability to avoid the citys heavy bumper-to-bumper traffic and unreasonable parking rates, people of all socioeconomic classes take the subway. One can argue that the businessmen working on Wall Street or the specialized physicians diagnosing at New York Universitys Langone Medical Center would not think much of paying for car service. Nonetheless, taking the subway is the most practical and popular way to get around. The audience still seems quite broad, but taking a closer look at the public service announcement will narrow down to the specific targets.

At the bottom of the PSA, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, and Russian translations are printed respectively. (MTA)

With New York City known as the melting pot, the platform safety posters are not only printed in English, but in four other languages that represent most, but not all of the non-English

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speaking population. Along the bottom of the poster, there are translations of the same message in Spanish, Chinese, Korean, and Russian. The language the rhetor uses in English is simple. Leading back to the audience, the straightforward words can be read by children with elementary reading skills. When it comes to New Yorkers, who always seem to be rushing from place to place, the MTA deliberately made the text short so that it is a quick read. People are also more likely to read short texts, as opposed to paragraphs after paragraphs with the short time they have between boarding and leaving the train. With incomplete, yet direct sentences, readers are told to Stand Back. Be Smart. Be Safe, (MTA). Printed in bold black ink, these words come off as solid, serious statements. The colors of the poster and text, including white, black, blue, and red, are very basic, so that it is easy on the eyes, and effortless to read. To make the text less boring and keep commuters interested, the rhetor also uses blue font so the text stands out without being unnecessarily colorful. The writer uses pathos with the bold red font to highlight the fact that 55 were killed (MTA). The poster was designed so that the red text is only used for those three words to catch peoples attention and draw on their alertness and sense of urgency. In addition to pathos being used in the statistics, logos is also used because the numbers are facts. Logos is also found in the picture found on the top left corner of the public service announcement in the round-edged square. The human figures are either green or red. From what American culture has taught, the color green typically has a good connotation of approval attached to it and the color red has a bad connotation of disapproval. We see this with traffic lights, where green signals go, red signals stop, and yellow signs caution. With the red figure standing on the yellow zone, leaning over the edge and the green figures standing far behind the yellow strip, the writer wants to use the picture to set an example of what commuters should and should not do. Including both female and male figures in the image, distinguished by the wearing

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of a dress or pants, do not reveal any stereotypes. The writer does not use slang because it is a formal announcement regarding an important issue. The MTA wants the readers to take the message seriously because it involves life or death. With publicity as the main goal of campaigns, the MTA did and still continues to succeed. Not many people know the real numbers because not every incident makes it to the media. Their purpose of informing commuters on the issue of a spike in deaths by trains has been accomplished. Conversely, statistics do not show any decrease in deaths, meaning there is a high chance that external factors, beyond awareness and caution, are the source of these tragedies.

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Works Cited Martin, Adam. "Death on the Tracks: MTA Sees Spike in Number of People Killed by Trains." New York Magazine, 17 Oct. 2013. Web. 16 Jan. 2014. "Platform Safety." Metropolitan Transportation Authority, n.d. Web. 19 Jan. 2014. ""Stay Back from the Platform Edge" Safety Campaign." Railway Track & Structures, 22 June 2012. Web. 17 Jan. 2014. Taylor, Jordyn. "A Light at the End of the Tunnel? MTA Rejects Grim Rise in Subway Deaths." The New York Observer, 17 Oct. 2013. Web. 16 Jan. 2014.