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MTA Trashes Pilot Program Removing Garbage Cans From Subway Stations

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The Metropolitan Transit Authority has trashed their pilot program that removed garbage cans from subway stations across the city.

As CBS2's Vanessa Murdock reported, the experiment was intended to encourage commuters to bring their trash with them as they traveled. The MTA had hoped the result would be a reduction in littering at stations.

But the experiment ended up having the opposite result.

"That's not going to work," one commuter told WCBS 880's Marla Diamond. "I've seen plenty of people on the train just leave their garbage there, they just throw it out before they even leave the car."

David MacDougall of Park Slope, Brooklyn thought the removal of the trash cans was strange, but also noticed, "When there is a trash can, it can be a complete disaster."

But an audit by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, based off MTA data, found there was an increase in litter and fires on the tracks after the program was put in place.

"The notion that you're going to be more efficient by taking away the trash cans, so therefore you won't generate so many bags of trash to haul away -- like the trash was going to magically disappear -- I think that probably wasn't the smartest judgment," DiNapoli said.

MTA communications director Beth DeFalco told CBS2 the pilot program began in two stations, to see if removing any place to put garbage would actually reduce the amount of litter in the stations.

DeFalco noted that litter can "potentially cause track fires and delays."

The pilot program expanded to a total of 39 stations in 2014, but quietly ended last fall.

"We found that there were also better ways that we could remove trash off the tracks and keep trash from making its way onto the tracks," DeFalco said.

The MTA's "Operation Track Sweep" program was launched over the summer. Two portable vacuum cleaners suck up all the debris from the tracks.

The MTA is also buying 27 new refuse trains to help remove the 40 tons of trash cleaned up from subway stations daily, and of course, the bins are back

But did riders at one subway stop in Park Slope even notice where they can now pitch in?

When asked what she would do with the trash she was holding, one woman said, "I would throw it away." But she did not see any garbage cans in the station.

The garbage cans at the station were only on the mezzanine level at the stations that took part in the pilot program.

"You've got have them on the platform. It's always been like that. It's crazy," one man said. "The subway is dirty enough. Now it's even dirtier"

The MTA hopes the subway is not, in fact, dirtier. The agency said multiple methods of keeping stations tidy seem to be striking a good balance – noting a 41 percent reduction in track fires at the 39 pilot stations.

CBS2 also asked if the removal of the trash bins had anything to do with security concerns. The MTA said it did not.

The MTA removes a 40 tons of trash from subway stations every day.

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