In the early 1980s, when the subway system was at its grimiest, cars were breaking down with regularity, graffiti taggers ran wild, crime was out of control and track fires repeatedly affected service, sets of pure white train cars began to appear on several IRT routes. They reminded you of the one white pigeon in any typical grey NYC flock.
The Transit Authority attempted to use reverse psychology and believed that a pure white train would make the taggers reluctant to touch them.
The trains didn’t stay white for long.
More effective graffiti-retardant practices were undertaken by TA President David Gunn beginning in 1984. By about 1995 most of the system was tag-free.
Screen capture from
ForgottenFan Dan McBride: They were not painted white with the idea no one would tag a white train. They were painted white so graffitti would show up easily and could be be covered with white paint at a terminus by crews for that specific purpose. It was the first step in ridding the system of graffitti, and it worked.