Traveling to New York is like going to another country; things are just a little bit different. One thing that struck me on my trip last week was the startling number of pay phones. And behold, here's the explanation: advertising. The ad space on the side of the phone booths provides way more revenue than the calls.
Incidentally, this reminds me of a story from the NYT a few years ago, about a pay-phone buff, the sort of a guy who always answers a ringing pay phone (back when they would take incoming calls, at least). His oddest exchange:
"Hello, is Louise there?"
"No, this is a pay phone"
"I know. Look, when she walks by, could you tell her that Julio called and I'm going to be at Rikers longer than I thought."