Oct. 22, 2019 By Allie Griffin
Straphangers can turn a nightmare into cash by finding the dirtiest, most disgusting, trash-filled subway car and submitting a photo of it to the city’s transit workers labor union competition.
The straphanger who finds the nastiest subway of all will be $500 richer, thanks to the “Trash Trains” competition launched by Transport Workers Union Local 100 (TWU).
The union created the photo competition to bring awareness to job cuts among subway cleaners. In its latest budget plan, the Metropolitan Transit Authority plans to cut 79 cleaner positions, according to the TWU website. The jobs will be lost through attrition, not layoffs.
With less cleaners and an increasing ridership, subways are getting dirtier, according to the TWU.
The number of soiled subway cars reported this year is likely to surpass last year’s numbers.
From January through August 2019, 1,623 soiled cars were reported, while in the same time period the year prior, 1,372 were reported, according to news site The City.
The Union hopes the Trash Trains contest will help stop the job cuts.
“We have started a contest to get New Yorkers involved and to tell the MTA to reverse course,” TWU wrote on their website.
Already the competition website has a gallery of stomach-turning photos taken inside the city’s subways. Scattered garbage, food, vomit, feces, blood, needles and used condoms litter the train cars in submitted photos.
“We run a world-class operation — and New York’s transit system is second to none,” TWU wrote on the competition website. “The MTA shouldn’t skimp on hiring the staff they need to deliver clean cars to our 6.5 million daily riders.”
Straphangers can enter the contest by uploading a photo of a soiled subway car to the competition website by Nov. 30. The public will then vote for the winning entry online.
Participants must be 18 or older to enter.
As subway riders, we have to deal with conductors who close the doors while crossing the platform attempting to transfer from a local to the express train. Try looking for the proper way to depose of your old newspaper as more trash cans are removed from more stations. Riders have to deal with aggressive panhandlers, eating as if one is at home or restaurant, those hogging two seats, yawning, coughing or sneezing without covering up, the release of flatulence and acrobatic performers swinging from subway car poles or homeless people riding back and forth with their meager possessions by their side taking up several seats. Women are periodically accosted by gropers while perverts engage in other unhealthy sexual activities.
Many have grown tired dealing with rats, mice and litter. New York City Transit should consider installing separate cans for recycling newspapers, plastic and glass along with regular garbage. Selling advertising on the side of cans could generate revenue to help cover the costs of more frequent off-peak and late-night collection and disposal. If asked, the NYC Department of Sanitation could do the same on the street adjacent to subway station entrances.
There was once a time in the early 1960’s when it was common to find both penny gum and soda machines dispensing products at many subway stations. Clean and safe bathrooms were readily available. It was a generation of people who respected authority and law. Previous generations of riders did not litter subway stations and buses, by leaving behind gum, candy wrappers, paper cups, bottles and newspapers. No one would openly eat pizza, chicken or other messy foods while riding a bus or subway. Everyone paid their way and there was no fare evasion.
Here is one way to think out of the box in attempting to solve this problem. Why not think out of the box and create the “H” line for homeless people using older subway cars about to be retired? They could be converted to provide overnight accommodations for homeless people, including bunk beds, portable showers and medical support facilities. This would afford regular transit riders more space and safer environment. Mayor Bill de Blasio needs all the help he can get in dealing with the growing NYC homeless population. Many of them refuse to go to shelters which they view as unsafe. They prefer riding the subways overnight or staying out on the street. This could save NYC millions.
(Larry Penner is a transportation historian, advocate and writer who previously worked in 31 years for the US Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office. This included the review, approval and oversight for billions of dollars in grants to the MTA which funded LIRR, Metro North and NYC Transit capital projects and programs).