Metropolitan Transportation Authority - New York City Transit


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NYS Comptroller


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Metropolitan Transportation Authority - New York City Transit
Trash Can Free Stations Pilot Program

Issued: September 22, 2015
Link to full audit report 2014-S-29
Link to 90-day response

To determine if Metropolitan Transportation-New York City Transit officials effectively evaluated the various Phases of the Trash Can Free Stations Pilot Program, intended to improve cleanliness of stations and reduce the rodent population. The audit covered October 2011 to October 2014.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) New York City Transit (Transit) provides rapid transit services. It has a fleet of more than 6,300 subway cars, which operate along 660 miles of track, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Transit’s Department of Subways (Subways) engages in several activities to maintain station cleanliness. It removes and disposes 14,000 tons of trash from the subway annually, and it cleans and removes trash from the track areas. Subways’ Station Environment and Operations (SEO) is responsible for station cleaning, station maintenance, and refuse collection for Transit’s 468 subway stations throughout Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan and Queens. Trash collected is bagged and stored in refuse storage rooms and platform housings. However, trash storage capacity is limited and may result in the overflow being left in “exposed bags” on platforms until collected by refuse trains or collection trucks. Unsightly and malodorous exposed refuse bags negatively impact the customer experience.

In October 2011, Transit’s SEO began the “Trash Can Free Stations Pilot Program” (or Pilot Program) to reduce refuse in the City’s subway system by removing the garbage cans from the platforms at selected stations. SEO’s objective was to solve the problem “of poor customer experience of exposed garbage bags in stations and eliminate the accompanying presence of rodents.” Transit began the pilot at two stations, 8th Street on the “R” line and Flushing-Main Street on the number “7” line (Phase I). Subsequently, SEO expanded the Pilot Program twice. Eight additional stations, chosen to represent average-sized stations both elevated and underground, were added in September 2012 (two in each of the Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens) as Phase II; and an additional 29 locations, on the “J” and “M” lines were added (Phase III) in July 2014. All 29 stations are elevated.

Key Findings

  • There were significant limitations in Transit’s efforts and methods to evaluate the progress of the Pilot Program. Consequently, it was unclear whether the Pilot Program sufficiently achieved its stated goals to improve customers’ experience and reduce the rodent population; and whether it should have been expanded.
  • Transit did not post outreach notices, explaining and promoting the Pilot Program in many of the Pilot Program’s selected stations.

Key Recommendations

  • Objectively review the results of the Pilot Program, focusing on originally stated purposes, and objectives. Assess performance against those purposes and determine whether to continue the Program. Consult with the MTA Board regarding impact on riders.
  • Prominently post notices at all stations selected for the Pilot Program announcing the change and periodically remind customers of the stations with no trash cans.

Other Related Audits/Reports of Interest


State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: Carmen Maldonado
Phone: (212) 417-5200; Email:
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236