In the fall of 2011, trash cans were removed from the Flushing-Main Street No. 7 line and Manhattan 8th Street R line stations. After positive results from those two locations, the MTA decided to add two stations each in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Manhattan to the pilot, starting in September 2012.
In Queens, those stations included the A line’s 111th Street stop and the 65th Street station of the M/R line.
The cans removed during the initial pilot reduced the number of trash bags by 67 percent at Main Street and 50 percent at 8th Street, according to the MTA. Also, the stations were cleaner and there wasn’t an increase in track fires.
Following the fall 2012 expansion, there was a 66 percent reduction in the number of bags collected, moderate to heavy litter levels decreased and the rodent population either decreased or was unchanged.
The MTA is now expanding the trash can removal pilot to 29 stations along the J and M lines.
“The results have been for the most part very positive and we have seen some behavioral changes by riders,” said Department of Subways, SVP Joe Leader. “We will expand the pilot to stations between Broad Street and Jamaica Center-Parsons/Archer in order to gauge the impact along an entire line segment.”
Each day, about 40 tons of trash is removed from the subway system, collected from more than 3,500 trash receptacles, according to the MTA. Despite more frequent bag removal, reinforced trash storage rooms and temper-proof cans, garbage still piles up, attracting rats and landing on train tracks, causing fires. The MTA started the pilot “in an effort to guide customers to take with them any disposables that they carry into the system.”
Commuters heading to work and the free papers handed out at subway stops may be a large part of the trash problem, according to a 2008 analysis of about 75,000 pounds of subway station garbage, which showed that the most common item thrown out at subway stations was newspapers, at 44 percent.
Though trash is an issue, a 2011 Straphangers Campaign subway platform survey found that garbage was not the biggest problem at subway stations. Observing 250 subway platforms, surveyors only saw one overflowing trash can and 15 garbage bags; rats were found on 11 percent of platforms. Problems such as broken lighting fixtures, substantial water damage and peeling paint were found at 50 to 79 percent of platforms.