Management & Operations

Trash can free rail station pilot yields positive results in N.Y.

Posted on August 6, 2015

Results of the ongoing MTA New York City Transit pilot removing trash cans from a total of 39 subway stations show a significant decrease in the amount of trash bags collected from these stations.

The results show a 66% reduction in the number of bags collected at Phase 1 and Phase 2 stations, and a 36% reduction in the number of bags collected at Phase 3 stations.

The three phases of the pilot were effectively evaluated and the results support the pilot’s originally stated goal to improve the customer experience in stations by minimizing the number of trash bags to be stored and collected, decreasing exposed trash bags and controlling the rodent population.

“This pilot appears counterintuitive but when we placed notices at the pilot stations indicating that the cans had been removed and asked the customers for their cooperation, it looks like they listened,” New York City Transit President Carmen Bianco said. “Given these results, we’ll continue the pilot and monitor and collect additional data at stations.”

Photo: N.Y. MTA
Photo: N.Y. MTA
The pilot stations have seen a reduction in trash volumes, rodent activity, as well as several other benefits. While the number of track fires at the pilot stations have remained neutral, the rate of track fires at the pilot stations is currently lower than the rate at stations with trash cans.  

Litter, measured by the percentage of stations with no or light litter in the morning and daytime, increased initially, but rebounded and improved later during the pilot and is currently on par with stations that have trash cans. Stations with cans with no or light litter stand at 85% while stations in the pilot without cans are hovering above 80%.

“The reduction in trash in these stations reduced the number of bags to be stored and, consequently, improved the customer experience by reducing the potential bags visible to customers as well as the potential food available to rodents,” said Senior VP of Subways Joseph Leader. “Additionally, the significant reduction in trash reduced the need for trash pickups in the pilot stations, which freed up personnel for deployment to other stations.”  

The initial phase of the pilot began in two stations in October 2011. Phase 2 added eight stations in September 2012 and Phase 3 added 29 along the JMZ lines in July 2014.  Baseline conditions were established at each station, and station cleanliness and trash collection was monitored regularly.

The decision to remove the trash cans was made in an effort to encourage customers to take with them any disposables that they carry into the system. Trash collection and removal remains a tremendous undertaking. Each day, about 40 tons of trash is removed from the system, collected from more than 3,500 trash receptacles, and approximately 50% gets recycled.

Photo: N.Y. MTA
Photo: N.Y. MTA
Eleven refuse collection trains cover 359 out of the system’s 468 stations with the remainder visited by refuse collection trucks. The refuse collection trains compete with passenger trains for space along the tracks and their overnight movements can be hampered by system maintenance which may require the closing of line segments.


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