Flickr/johnnybelmont

MTA officials are testing out the theory that removing garbage bins from subway platforms will lead to less garbage in the system

It's great that New York City is trying out novel approaches to making its notoriously filthy and smelly subway system a little less, well, filthy and smelly. Experimentation is a crucial component to problem solving, after all, and far too few transit agencies are willing to take risks to find out what works. But this is perhaps the silliest idea I've ever run across as a way to reduce the accumulation of garbage. Via The New York Times:

... trash-weary officials at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority are trying something new: in a counterintuitive plan, a pair of subway stops, one in Queens and one in Greenwich Village, have been entirely bin-free for the last two weeks.

 The idea is to reduce the load on the authority’s overtaxed garbage crew, which is struggling to complete its daily rounds of clearing out 40 tons of trash from the system.

But it also offers a novel experiment: will New Yorkers stop throwing things away in the subway if there is no place to put them?

A couple of things here: First, not giving subway passengers a place to throw away their garbage won't result in less garbage. The garbage will just end up someplace else, whether it's in city-owned trash bins on the street near subway exits, or just strewn all over the platform or inside train cars. The former may very well accomplish what MTA is after here, pushing the burden of collection on the city's Department of Sanitation, but the latter seems certain to lead to an even more overburdened MTA garbage staff.

Second, there's a perfectly logical way to reduce the actual amount of garbage subway passengers produce, a policy which would also have the added benefit of reducing bad odors, vermin and insects: Ban food and drink on the entire system. San Francisco and Washington, D.C. already do this, and their transit systems, while far from pristine, are a lot cleaner for it. Former MTA Chief Jay Walder flatly rejected a food and drink ban earlier this year, even after a food fight broke out on a Brooklyn train. At the time, Walder said he wasn't convinced such a ban would be enforceable, but perhaps his newly named successor, Joseph Lhota, will have a different view. Here in D.C., enforcement isn't only left to WMATA personnel: I've seen passengers successfully shame those who flout the law, thanks in part to the transit agency's thoughtful and amusing public awareness campaigns comparing the Metrorail system's cleanliness to, you guessed it, New York's.

Image courtesy Flickr user johnnybelmont

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. a photo of a full parking lot with a double rainbow over it
    Transportation

    Parking Reform Will Save the City

    Cities that require builders to provide off-street parking trigger more traffic, sprawl, and housing unaffordability. But we can break the vicious cycle.   

  2. Life

    American Migration Patterns Should Terrify the GOP

    Millennial movers have hastened the growth of left-leaning metros in southern red states such as Texas, Arizona, and Georgia. It could be the biggest political story of the 2020s.

  3. A woman looks straight at camera with others people and trees in background.
    Equity

    Why Pittsburgh Is the Worst City for Black Women, in 6 Charts

    Pittsburgh is the worst place for black women to live in for just about every indicator of livability, says the city’s Gender Equity Commission.

  4. Life

    Mapping the Changing Colors of Fall Across the U.S.

    Much of the country won’t see those vibrant oranges and reds until mid-October, which leaves plenty of time for leaf peepers to plan their autumn road trips.

  5. Transportation

    Why Are Little Kids in Japan So Independent?

    In Japan, small children take the subway and run errands alone, no parent in sight. The reason why has more to do with social trust than self-reliance.

×