An unofficial subway magazine is baffling the MTA — and delighting commuters

An unofficial subway magazine is baffling the MTA — and delighting commuters

By Hannah Frishberg


The New York City subway now has its very own unofficial publication — and the only way to get your hands on one is by riding the rails until you find a copy. 

Public Transport Magazine is a free publication featuring stories and cartoons from such notable names as “The Simpsons” writer Steve Young and New Yorker cartoonist Edward Steed, and randomly distributed within the subway system by creator Al Mullen. 

Its fourth issue landed in stations this week.

The 35-year-old video editor and comedian was inspired to launch Public Transport out of a desire to reach a wider, more diverse crowd than he’d usually see at his stand-up shows.

“I just was like, I wonder if I could find a way to foist my comedy upon the masses in a unique way?” he told The Post.

Mullen creates the DIY publication in his Bed-Stuy apartment, then leaves copies in stations around the city: tucked in train-car ads, on platform benches and even next to public artworks like the Tom Otterness bronze sculptures at the 14th Street L station. He’s planted issues in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens, and said he suspects they’ve reached The Bronx by train.

Each edition has a theme, and the latest is devoted to filth in all its forms.

It includes a missed-connections missive by Vanity Fair author Mike Sacks, “Highlights From My Own Filthy Hall of Shame” by renowned cartoonist Emily Flake and a cover illustration from Steed, who also created the cover for Father John Misty’s Grammy-award-winning 2017 album “Pure Comedy.” 

In curating Public Transport, “I wanted to have some element of insanity. But then also the people contributing are really successful, accomplished people,” Mullen said. 

He launched the publication in May 2022 with 200 copies and was bolstered by feedback from fans who came across it underground. Mullen has since upped his distribution to 5,000 copies, which cost him around $375 out of pocket; the magazine doesn’t run ads.

Public response, Mullen said, has ranged from charmed to confused. He recalled seeing MTA workers pick up copies, examine them, and come to the conclusion of “‘whatever.’ They’re just like, wow, OK, another weird thing. It’s New York, you know?”

Costume maker Annie Yonge, 27, noticed a copy of Public Transport “tucked into an ad slot” in January 2023 but a fellow straphanger grabbed it first.

“So I asked this person, can I look at it with you?” Yonge recalled to The Post. The two became friends over the ensuing A train ride to Penn Station, and Yonge then reached out to Mullen about getting involved — and is now a volunteer distributor.

“It just became like a game for me,” Yonge, who lives in Bed-Stuy, said. “[It] really just made my commute genuinely more enjoyable.” 

Although Mullen’s goal to “lose less money” with the magazine remains a distant goal, Public Transport has certainly already made one of his dreams come true: “[I wanted] to randomly find someone and delight them,” he said.