Earlier this year in February, Jeffrey Omura, SAS reader, sent me the above photo of the 157th St. platform with a note explaining how the trash would stick around for a few weeks. MTA workers would bag the garbage, but no one would ever come to collect it. Rats would move in and a stench would invade the rear of the platform.
Omura’s story isn’t an isolated one in the days of the MTA’s austerity budgets. A few years ago, then-Transit president Howard Roberts told me that cleaning budgets were going to be cut, and we’re still feeling — and smelling — the effects of those cuts. Today in his Daily News column, Pete Donohue explores the trash problem. No one is picking up the garbage, he writes:
Subway riders are being forced to wait on platforms that have plastic bags stuffed with foul-smelling dreck because the MTA regularly fails to meet its own garbage collection schedule, the Daily News has learned. On an average night, MTA trash trains and garbage trucks don’t make it to more than 100 stations that are scheduled for a pickup, Metropolitan Transportation Authority data show.
When the temporary storage space in a station fills up, the trash is left on a platform. It remains there – sometimes for days – before being carted away. It could be a bag tucked in the corner or more than a dozen bags near an entrance…The News found between one and 10 bags at a string of other nearby G train stations such as Bedford-Nostrand – and 30 piled on a platform at the elevated Astoria-Ditmars Blvd. station in Queens.
The MTA has eight garbage-hauling trains with flatbed cars. From Tuesday, June 14, through Tuesday, June 21, those trains missed 962 of their scheduled stops, NYC Transit division records show. (They made about 200 unscheduled stops.) The authority has nine garbage trucks assigned to the subways. They missed 260 scheduled stops over the same eight days, the records show, even as they made about 60 unscheduled stops. Some stations are supposed to get garbage collection once a day. At the other end of the spectrum, the least-busy stations are supposed to get it twice a week. The pickup rate is about 60% or 70%, depending on how you crunch the numbers.
According to Donohue, the MTA has put forward a handful of reasons why garbage collection suffers. He says that crews have to work around passenger train schedules as well as capital repair-related shut downs. He also notes that the nine garbage trucks are old and are out of service for around 118 days per year.
While he doesn’t mention previous years’ budget cuts, I have been told in the past that those cuts have also led to more trash on the platforms, but now the MTA plans to add more garbage collectors. “We’re certainly conceding trash in all instances is not being picked up in a timely fashion,” MTA spokesman Charles Seaton said to The News. “We have taken steps to improve the situation, and we will take further steps.”