Transit set to remove trash cans from 29 more stations

By · Published in 2014

This decals won't pop up in stations without garbage cans.

In the never-ending war pitting the MTA vs. rats and also endless amounts of garbage, the transit agency has spent the last few years engaged in a battle of reverse psychology. Since late 2011, the MTA has couterintuitively removed trash cans to combat trash, and now this program will expand to 29 stations. It’s somewhat controversial and often derided, but according to Transit, it’s getting results as the amount of garbage in the trash can-free stations has rapidly declined.

For years, the MTA has suffered from a trash problem. Some of it stems from the sheer volume of people who use the system; some of it stems from the fact that, for various reasons, the MTA hasn’t made a move to ban eating underground. No matter the cause though trash has mounted up in stations, and due to the logistics of a vast 24-hour system, it cannot be picked up timely or regularly. With trash that sits for days, rats abound, and station environments become generally unfriendly and dirty.

The pilot then is designed to appeal to common courtesy. Most people won’t discard their garbage if there’s no trash can and will instead carry it out of the system. A small percentage of riders will chuck their trash where they can — under seats, on platforms, in the tracks, in a small space between a pipe and a wall — but those folks are apt to do that even with trash cans present. Eliminating trash cans then will eliminate trash.

As you may have guessed from the news that the MTA is cutting out garbage cans at 29 more stations, the pilot is apparently working. “We’ve seen a change in customer behavior. Riders knew that there weren’t trash cans at those stations, so they took their trash somewhere else,” Joe Leader, Transit’s vice president of subways, said during a board committee meeting yesterday.

The MTA’s own numbers seem to bear witness to this reality. Since removing trash cans at ten stations over the past few years, the agency has seen trash collection reduced by 66 percent at those stations with a small increase — 3.2 percent — in bags collected litter thrown on the tracks. Track fires not increased, and the MTA say these stations are as clean as they were with garbage cans. Meanwhile, the reduced trash at these stations has allowed the MTA to allocate resource to collecting trash and cleaning other areas of the subway system.

Additionally, the trends over time have shown significant improvement as well. As more time has elapsed, litter has become less common at these stations. Garbage overnight has nearly disappeared, and the daytime levels of heavy litter are 11 percentage points better than average. By and large, straphangers are taking out what they’re bringing in. It’s the national parks philosophy hard at work.

To continue this program, the MTA will add an additional 29 stations along the J/Z and M lines to the program. To combat the potential for track fires, the agency plans to increase track cleaning frequencies, but garbage cans will essentially disappear from most of the BMT Nassau St., BMT Jamaica and BMT Myrtle Avenue Lines in an effort to further reduce collection costs. The MTA won’t spread this program to all 468 stations; it’s trying to better seal up existing garbage facilities to fight the rodent problem. But for now, trash cans will become more scarce underground, seemingly to better behavior by most.

29 Responses to “Transit set to remove trash cans from 29 more stations”

  1. bronx native says:

    Lol its totally fine if we see trash on the ground we can just step over it

  2. Anon256 says:

    This is like something out of a parody of a dysfunctional transit agency.

    • VLM says:

      I’d say your reaction is typical New York Exceptionalism, but you don’t even need to leave New York to find this. Ever notice how many garbage cans are in PATH stations and how dirty those aren’t? It may be, as Ben notes, counterintuitive, but it works.

      • tacony says:

        But the level of non-garbage-related dirtiness in the NYC subway is exponentially higher than it is in PATH. I’m talking about the fact that the yellow platform edges are blackened at the ends of the platforms and the columns leave black marks on your fingers if you touch them. PATH floors and columns are comparatively squeaky clean. It seems like this has little to do with people bringing garbage into the system. It would lead a rational person to conclude that the PATH must employ a much more effective station cleaning program than the MTA.

        • Bolwerk says:

          You may be absolutely right. However, part of that regimen is minimizing use of trash receptacles and making people take responsibility for their own waste.

          VLM is right. This is pretty much best practice imported from elsewhere in the world.

      • Epson45 says:

        Even without garbage cans at PATH, some of the PATH station sure needed a bath.

  3. pete says:

    On ELs, the trash winds up stuck between the ties, or on the street below. VacTrak doesn’t run on ELs.

  4. Phantom says:

    The London Underground doesn’t have trash bins.

    There is -much- more newspaper litter on train cars than you see in NYC.

    There’s no place to put the papers, so people just leave them.

    This must be the standard that the MTA is striving for.

  5. SEAN says:

    But wait a minute… who’s to say that some of the riders & the rats aren’t one & the same. LOL

  6. Herb Lehman says:

    I don’t really buy this. The garbage may have been cleared from the stations, but it sure hasn’t been cleared from the trains. It may or may not have to do with the trash cans being removed, but there seems to be more trash left behind on the trains themselves over the past year or so.

    • VLM says:

      This initial pilot has been at 10 stations. That’s barely two percent of all subway stations. There’s no way you’ve noticed an honest increase in trash on trains in the past year or so.

      • Epson45 says:

        8 St- NYU/Broadway: constant garbage pile up near by the seats and on the tracks.

        Flushing-Main St, constant garbage pile up near the station entrances and escalators that cause numerous break downs.

  7. Phantom says:

    I find that London Underground cars have much more litter than NYC subway cars do.

    I think that this is because there are no litter bins in any of their stations.

  8. John Doe says:

    New Yorkers are pigs!! it’s time to ban food in the subway once & for all!! think of all the money that could be saved, once there’s no garbarge to pick up we can eliminate the sanitation positions and put that money back into the transit system!

    • Epson45 says:

      Banning food will never work. New Yorkers and tourists are pigs.

      • Phantom says:

        There is no need to ban food or drink.

        Why don’t we ban littering- for real.

        When was the last time you saw tickets written for littering ( or spitting ) in the subway system or anywhere else?

        The law is never enforced. It’s a reverse broken windows practice.

    • D. Graham says:

      So the next time someone vomits on the platform, you’re comfortable with that vomit staying there and fermenting into dry dust? Good to know…

      A Station Cleaner duties stretches beyond changing the backs in a can.

  9. D in Bushwick says:

    Littering seems to be what too many New Yorkers insist on doing. We’ve all watched these idiots too lazy to dispose of their garbage properly. The streets in many neighborhoods are full of garbage so why would the subway be treated any differently?
    BUT, the MTA also refuses to require their union employees to properly clean stations on a regular basis. Walls, ceilings and floors rarely if ever get cleaned.
    Why is that?!

    • VLM says:

      Because there are 468 of them and all have 24-hour service? Because union labor is expensive? Take your pick.

    • Epson45 says:

      MTA has decrease the size of cleaning department since 2010 budget cuts. Ask your local and city politicians to donate more money to MTA.

    • BruceNY says:

      Excellent point! There are layers of soot and grime that never get hit with a power wash, to say nothing of stains on wall tiles from leaks in the ceilings. Most “cleaning” that I’ve witnessed is splashing some sudsy/bleachy water on the platform and spreading it around with brooms.
      But I must say that FastTrack has made an impact.

  10. JJJJ says:

    How does Boston have
    -Food allowed (including vendors on platforms)
    -Trash cans
    -97% cleaner system

    The problem in NY is a culture issue. Sometimes walking in Queens is like walking across a junk yard.

    How about taking the enormous police force that apparently has nothing better to do than beat up old asian men, have them actually use the subway, and fine people for littering?

    • Justin Samuels says:

      Good idea. There’s nothing wrong with the trash can ban, but on top of it why not have the cops give out big fines for littering? The stations have cameras so it’s not like the litter would get to deny that they did it. It would certainly save the MTA money in trash removal.

      • Bolwerk says:

        Because of the simmering crime wave just waiting to happen the second the cops stop battering people for being swarthy. Just ask The New York Post.

    • Miles Bader says:

      Seriously. Plenty of other large systems have trash cans, food vendors on the platforms, and yet are very clean.

      If the NYC subway has a trash problem, it’s a problem with the NYC subway (and maybe with New Yorkers), not with trash cans generally.

  11. Duke says:

    If the point is to combat rat infestations in the tunnels, why is this being done at elevated stations? Gotta love MTA logic.

    • D. Graham says:

      You believe rats don’t make that climb. Just because they don’t do it during normal business hours doesn’t mean they aren’t up there.

  12. Alley says:

    Many NYers just throw trash wherever. Walking 103st from 3rd ave to Lex is a cesspool of filth, garbage, vomit, and dog poop every day. Parents throw their trash on the ground and the kids do the same. The stations are like the streets, but less dog poop.

    Banning the people from handing out the free “newspapers” would help. I read somewhere that they accounted for 40% of the trash in the subways, in or out of trashcans.

  13. Phantom says:

    –Banning the people from handing out the free “newspapers” would help.–

    A thousand times, yes.

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