Home Asides Once more unto the garbage cans

Once more unto the garbage cans

by Benjamin Kabak

As Transit tries to make its garbage collection problem go away, news coverage of the effort has found a comfortable narrative: The debate focuses around rider behavior and Transit services. As a forum on Thursday, Transit president Thomas Prendergast said the trash can-free pilot has been a success. MTA workers have found the stations without trash cleaner while the MTA hasn’t had to deal with as much trash.

Yet despite this early success, riders aren’t happy even as they’re complying with the new rules. “They’re are a lot of people that think it’s backwards and that it’s not what we should do. So, we haven’t been able to change their mind from a perceptual standpoint. But from a behavioral standpoint, we have,” Prendergast said.

Perhaps, then, these riders have taken their cues from rider advocates. Speaking at the same forum, Straphangers Campaign head Gene Russianoff explained how he feels trash cans are a no-brainer. “It’s a service to your customers to give them a waste paper basket,” he said. Should the MTA be able to provide both garbage cans and subway service for its passengers? As I wrote a few weeks ago, it’s a question that reaches the fundamental core of the MTA’s role. Likely they should be able to offer both, but customers seem to respect the station environment more if there are no trash cans. If I have to pick one, I’m opting for a cleaner station with no trash cans over a dirtier station with such a can.

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8 comments

Kai B March 1, 2012 - 6:14 pm

Stations are a part of the MTA’s transportation role, and making sure these are clean so that passengers can get to the trains without slipping on banana peels is a part of that role. Not to mention that litter causes track fires which also affects operations.

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R. Graham March 2, 2012 - 1:50 pm

Littering is still illegal. Trash can or not. Everyone should dispose of their refuse properly.

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Al D March 2, 2012 - 9:18 am

I don’t see what the big deal is. Take out the cans. Just toss it to the tracks!!

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Andrew Smith March 2, 2012 - 12:55 pm

Along the same lines, how about eliminating the frustrations of subway service by simply eliminating subway service? No late trains. No dilapidated stations. No worries about overlong time between trains.

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R. Graham March 2, 2012 - 1:48 pm

This analogy is so flawed! I don’t even know how to rebut it.

I just don’t see a problem with withdrawing from something you don’t specialize in. Your expertise is transportation not garbage and if you can focus less on trash and more on transit then you can actually improve transit service.

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Jeffrey March 2, 2012 - 2:29 pm

R. Graham – I’m with you. I was in the 8th Street stop off the NRQ line yesterday which had its trash cans removed some time ago. The station is remarkably cleaner than any of the stations with trash cans in the system. I support getting rid of all the trash cans in the system.

While we’re at it, the city Sanitation Dept should experiment with removing trash cans from streets in certain neighborhoods and see how that affects the city’s cleanliness. If anyone disagrees, go visit Tokyo. It’s near impossible to find a public trash can; it’s also near impossible to find litter on the street.

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Bolwerk March 2, 2012 - 2:40 pm

I’ve found him to be flawed but at least well meaning for a long time, but I’m starting to suspect Gene Russianoff is part of a false flag offensive to keep NYC transit as ineffective and unreliable as possible.

I disagree with the “all or nothing” approach though. I mean, could Grand Central sensibly have waste disposal? Sure. But why should Forest Avenue? Incidentally, you see the same attitude toward token booth clerks, who incidentally don’t have to care whether or not a station is clean either.

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UESider March 3, 2012 - 1:52 pm

There do seem to be an awful lot of trash cans throughout the system – there should be a happy medium where the numbers can be reduced or moved closer to central collection points via trash car removal or hauling to street level.

In a lot of stations, I know I would carry my trash up to the street, if I knew I would find a can there – maybe the MTA needs to work with the NYC DOS to place trash cans at street-level entrances/exits.

I want my fare dollars to be spent wisely and with the current economy, people’s expectations seem to be quite different. I hope that translates into issues like these.

They may also need to run a public ad campaign asking people to carry in, carry out and carry on…

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