In late August, Transit removed trash cans from eight more stations around the city in an effort to both cut down on garbage collection costs and reduce the number of rodents underground. To many people, the MTA’s logic has been counterintuitive. How does reducing the number of trash cans cut down on garbage? Yet with collection limited to the fixed tracks of the subway system, it’s a proposal that should actually work.
So far, at least, politicians and straphangers are mixed on the pilot, but it seems to me to be a case of misunderstanding the cause of the problem and the MTA’s potential solution. Take a glance through this short Daily News article on some of the pilot stations. The short of it is that Midtown riders are skeptical while Lower Manhattan stations seem much cleaner.
In one survey conducted online by City Council member Jessica Lappin, two-thirds of respondents said litter had increased at 57th St. while Pete Donohue’s own inspection of Rector St. revealed only an errant empty water bottle. The Daily News writer has more:
“As you might expect, taking away the trash cans doesn’t mean people magically stop producing garbage,” said Councilwoman Jessica Lappin (D-Manhattan), whose office conducted the survey. “The MTA should toss out this plan and put the garbage cans back.”
Despite the complaints, the MTA is not planning any immediate change in the program…The MTA said it would keep a close eye on the situation at 57th St. and at the other nine stations now in the pilot program.
At the Rector St. station on the No. 1 line — one of the can-less stations — the platforms Friday afternoon were almost completely void of trash. There was one empty water bottle on the uptown platform and one small plastic bag on the other side. “Every once in a while, there might be some trash near the benches, but nothing significant,” said Leah Bebatchenko, 25, a Manhattan graduate student.
Lappin’s comments seem particularly misguided. Of course people aren’t going to stop producing garbage, but it just isn’t that hard to take it to street level and use Department of Sanitation trash cans. If subway riders are littering on their own, that’s an indictment of their own behavior and not the MTA’s. Furthermore, trash in the cans that then sits on the platform and attracts rodents is the overall problem; litter is a social ill outside the scope of this program.
It takes a bit of creative thinking to see how eliminating trash cans cuts down on trash collection, and in a society which needs its hand held when it comes to refuse disposal, politicians are often slow to grasp the broader implications. For now, though, this pilot program should continue.