Home New York City Transit Cleaning the dirty subway floors

Cleaning the dirty subway floors

by Benjamin Kabak

The floors of the subway system are known for their grimy, gumminess. (Photo by flickr user Susan NYC)

About once a year, it seems, the disgusting floors of the New York City subways take center stage. Last year, the problem focused around rising concrete and porcelain costs. This year, it’s all about cleanliness.

According to Pete Donohue of The Daily News, the MTA is looking for ways to better demarcate emergency exists while improving the sanitary conditions of the system’s floors. He reports:

NYC Transit is testing a new type of flooring with iridescent flakes that can illustrate routes to exits if the lights go out in an emergency…The resin-based material is poured like concrete, allowing flakes to be set in a pattern.

Safety aside, the resinous flooring might conquer an unsightly foe that’s defeated many a subway cleaner: gum. Many subway stations have porous concrete surfaces that are difficult to maintain and deteriorate into gum-spattered eyesores. Some stations have granite floors, which are easier to scour but expensive to install: $1.7 million for an average-sized station.

Resinous flake flooring is easier to maintain and less expensive, about one-third the cost of granite, officials said. “If this really works [it] gives the ability to essentially do away with the gum problem,” Roberts said. “It could make an order of magnitude difference in the appearance of stations.”

Currently, the Chambers St. stop on the IRT is serving as the guinea pig. As the station is rehabilitated, New York City Transit has poured the new materials on the mezzanine. I’ll try to swing by and snap a picture soon.

It’s hard to argue with this approach if it does indeed make it easier to clean the station platforms. Right now, those floors are among the least appealing aspects of waiting for a train. With food stains, gum splotches and various other unidentified liquids pooling up, the floors are ugly at best and unwalkable at worst.

This move reflects well on NYC Transit and the rider report card projbect. They’re actively looking to address a problem — cleanliness — identified by many as one of the drawbacks of the system, and the riders should benefit for it.

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R2 February 2, 2009 - 3:17 pm

The floors wouldn’t be so dirty if people didn’t use the subway as a giant garbage dump/urinal.

Dave Rose February 2, 2009 - 3:29 pm

I go through here almost every day, and the floors look quite good. Much better than how they used to look, and no evidence of gum stains yet. Now they have taken a bit of a beating from snow melt over the past few weeks, but it doesn’t seem like it’s anything that the rapidly diminishing cleaning crews couldn’t take care of. I give them a thumbs up, and hope this treatment gets expanded into other stations.

Now the renovation of Chambers is another matter, as we are getting closer to the one-year anniversary of when it was supposed to be completed (Spring 2008, according to the boards hung around the area). That seems to be about par for the course on the 1-2-3 line, however. So I’m expecting the 96th Street renovation to be done by Dec 2011, not Fall 2010 as the boards at that station note.

Mike February 2, 2009 - 5:44 pm

Unfortunately, these new floors that they’re testing at Chambers Street are *seriously* ugly.

Angus Grieve-Smith February 2, 2009 - 6:36 pm

I remember the first time I realized that those black spots all over the subway platform were gum. That day my faith in humanity took a nose-dive from which it’s never quite discovered.

Mr. Eric February 2, 2009 - 7:00 pm

It would help if the police actually did something underground besides trying to pick up woman and arrest people for pissing and shitting on the platforms.

Adam February 2, 2009 - 8:18 pm

To be honest, the PATH smells worse than the Subway, at least between Hoboken and 33rd Street. They’re investing a lot of capital in PATH, and none of it goes to my line.

Second Ave. Sagas | A New York City Subway Blog » Blog Archive » » Checking out the new floor February 3, 2009 - 3:12 pm

[…] a few hours after writing about the experimental floors NYC Transit has installed an in effort to keep their stations cleaner, I found myself in the […]


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