Home Asides Gearing up for another battle in the War on Rats

Gearing up for another battle in the War on Rats

by Benjamin Kabak

As the MTA attempts to limit the subway’s rat population through birth control, the agency is also working on some decidedly less scientific efforts to control rodents. As officials explained to City Council members yesterday, crews will begin sealing off garbage rooms later this summer. The work will include, according to the Daily News’ report, replacing doors, blocking gaps and plugging “other avenues of entry.”

City Council members — who have a seeming inability to focus on big-picture transit issues while dwelling for months on minor issues — were happy to hear it. “I’m pleased,” Transportation Committee Chair James Vacca said. “I have seen rats dancing on the subway platform. There’s nothing more disgusting.”

I’m much less optimistic. Unless these rooms are hermetically sealed, rats will find away to food, and while sealing off some points of entry will push the rats to use common routes, it won’t eliminate the problem. Banning eating while underground would help, but otherwise, rats are here to stay no matter how many times Vacca and his brethren try to wish them away.

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Adam May 10, 2013 - 2:48 pm


I realize that newspapers aren’t necessarily the food that rats go for but after visiting Boston and seeing the generous number of newspaper recycling receptacles provided by Metro for the free dailies they hand out to MBTA customers, I’m wondering why we don’t have a corresponding program in New York. As a huge transit proponent and avid environmentalist, I don’t understand why nobody has forced Metro or AM New York to provide receptacles. I would estimate that roughly 50% of the garbage on the tracks at 157th Street on any given morning is made up of pages of either AMNY or Metro. If somebody from AMNY can stand in the entrance to the station, which is technically MTA property, shouldn’t the MTA have some requirement that they pay a portion of advertising dollars to provide such receptacles? I may not understand the whole story but this would reduce MTA maintenance costs and provide an environmentally-friendly way of recycling all of the papers that usually get thrown in the trash.

Chris C May 10, 2013 - 3:38 pm

Here in London the free morning newspaper (‘Metro’) pays Transport for London about £3 million (approx $4.5 million) per annum to be able to distribute it on TFL property.

I guess a good part of that pays for additional cleaners to pick them up from the bottom of the escalators and those left on the trains.


Ryan Dorman May 10, 2013 - 3:47 pm

There is a similar program in the Metro system with a partnership between WMATA and The Washington Post.

Bolwerk May 10, 2013 - 4:00 pm

Well, they don’t call them fishwraps for nothing….

Chris C May 10, 2013 - 7:54 pm

Not allowed to use them to wrap fish ‘n’ chips* in any more.

Not tasted the same since !

* chips as in British chips and not US chips that we call crisps.

Bolwerk May 10, 2013 - 9:10 pm

Heh, I know the differences. When did they ban using newspaper anyway?

Chris C May 11, 2013 - 8:24 am

at least 20 years ago!

In any case they were only used as the outer wrapper but I guess it was / is a hygiene issue – you never know where the papers have been etc,

Aaron May 10, 2013 - 3:27 pm

It appears that snakes might be the most likely predator to introduce in the subways:


Nyland8 May 11, 2013 - 6:23 am

Snakes On A Train! Didn’t they make a movie about that?

SEAN May 11, 2013 - 10:10 am

Dam! I forgot about that.

Tom May 10, 2013 - 10:15 pm

Banning eating on the subway won’t even make a dent. Aside from the fact that rats will eat almost anything, and that food will inevitably drop down the exhaust vents from the surface into the system, people will still eat. There’s no food or drink allowed on the WMATA in Washington and in 5 years there I was stopped exactly once, for a Starbucks coffee. Which I waited until the attendant was doing something else and then went into the system anyway. When I was working 3 jobs, I ate every day on the metro because it was the only time I could find to do it. Never a problem.

Bolwerk May 11, 2013 - 2:52 am

I’m not sure I agree it wouldn’t make a difference. I’m not really for banning eating, but WMATA does appear to have fewer rodents.

The difference with eating between the two systems is probably normative.* People expect to be able to eat on the NYC Subway, so they do if they want. On the DC Metro, it’s not regarded as normal behavior. That said, in my experience, they are pretty strict about it down there, but then I probably use only high security key stations (and one suburban station).

* Actually, the same could probably be said for littering too.

SEAN May 11, 2013 - 10:09 am

I’m not really for banning eating, but WMATA does appear to have fewer rodents.

Aren’t you forgetting about both
houses of congress? I think there are plenty of rodents residing there.

Bolwerk May 11, 2013 - 1:07 pm

But I don’t think they are heavy users of WMATA. They scurry about by SUV and limo.

D in Bushwick May 11, 2013 - 11:25 am

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) kills rats but is relatively safe for people. Putting out some bait laced with it every night for a week would do wonders.
This is method being used to rid an entire island of introduced rats in the South Atlantic.


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