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MTA's weird plan to cut subway trash: Removing garbage cans


amny-trash Credit: A subway trash can/RJ Mickelson/amNY

It seems ironic: to cut down on trash on subway platforms, the MTA is considering trashing garbage cans.

The cash-strapped agency may remove all the cans from some platforms if everything goes well with a test-run underway at two stations. The MTA is banking on riders to take their trash with them, or simply bring less of it.

If the pilot program — which began two weeks ago at the 8th Street N/R station and Flushing/Main Street No. 7 station — is successful over the next two months, it could roll out to other stations.

“It’s just an experiment to see how much we can reduce the amount of refuse that we pick up,” said John Gaito, the MTA’s vice president and chief officer for subways. “We expect people to bring garbage, but we’d like them to bring less food. … Food attracts rodents.”

The test is being done in response to the agency’s difficulty picking up the approximately 8,820 garbage bags each day across the system, Gaito said during Monday’s transit committee meeting. Eight trains and six trucks haul away trash each day at an annual cost of approximately $32 million, but refuse trains still miss one-in-three scheduled stops because they’re filled up or running late.

The station cleaner at the 8th Street station likes the lack of trash bins, Gaito noted, but the cleaner at Main Street isn’t a fan because he has to personally tidy up after straphangers.

“We don’t mind picking up things like newspapers,” Gaito said, adding they account for nearly half of all garbage collected. “We’d prefer papers instead of food.”

Transit advocates and straphangers were left scratching their heads when they were told about the experiment.

“It seems like an odd solution to a legitimate problem,” said Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign. “I don’t think it’s going to make cleaning up garbage easier with no garbage cans.”

Riders at the 8th Street station, where imprints from the removed cans were still visible Monday, echoed his opinion.

"It doesn't make sense to me," said NYU student Naleeka Dennis, 21. "Not everyone is gonna carry their garbage around."

Transport Union Workers spokesman Jim Gannon called the plan, “pretty ridiculous.”

“It’s like saying were gonna fight crime by taking the cops off the street,” Gannon said.

A city sanitation department spokesman said he couldn’t comment as of press time on what impact the plan has had on city garbage cans, or if they’ve been filling up faster outside stations without trash receptacles.

The MTA is also adding refuse trains and trucks, and using other new strategies to reduce the number of subway rats.

The TWU has been pushing for the MTA to adopt its proposals to crackdown on what it calls an increasing rat problem. It recently launched a site,, where riders can upload and “rate” rodent photos and tell about their rat encounters.


Riders more satisfied with MTA

A year after the biggest service cuts in its history and another fare hike, the MTA said its riders are happier with subway and bus service, according to a survey the agency conducted in June. In fact, the survey showed customer satisfaction increasing in nearly every category. Some of the findings:


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