An audit released Thursday by comptroller Scott Stringer’s office confirms your suspicions that the New York City subway is a filthy hellhole ruled by rat kings, and that the MTA hasn’t been doing much to clean it up.
“The MTA is constantly reminding riders to clean up after themselves, but they’re setting a poor example by letting piles of disgusting trash pile up for months on end,” Stringer said in a press conference. The rats are “walking upright like they own the city,” Stringer said, “waiting to take the train to their next meal.” Germophobic commuters should start swaddling themselves in layers of Purell and saran wrap.
The MTA is supposed to clean each of its 276 stations once every three weeks, but auditors found that 97% of its stations were cleaned far less regularly, with 88% of the stations cleaned fewer than eight times a year. Which surely helps the 15,152 types of bacteria living in the subway system thrive. And the city’s two vacuum trains, responsible for sucking up the rivers of trash that accumulate on the tracks, are often out of service–one vacuum train was broken for 311 of the 365 days in the audit period. Even when they’re in service, they barely work, leaving behind 70% of the trash on the tracks. The audit suggests allocating more money for subway maintenance and cleaning, and fixing the vacuum trains.
Straphangers’ tales of train filth illustrate the report’s findings. “I’ve come to think of the slow flow of water running through the trash on the Atlantic Avenue Q tracks as the closest thing I’ll get to a backyard stream,” Lefferts Gardens resident Shaunacy Ferro says.
“There have been plenty of times–at least 3–when I’ve realized that the disgusting shit-smell that pervades a car is actually a pile of human excrement,” Brooklyn Magazine editor Kristin Iversen says. “Once, I saw a guy—who was totally dressed pretty normally and seemed relatively clean—lift up his pant leg, and on his calf he had, like, an open sore. It looked like a deep cut that he’d picked the scab off, and he stuck his finger INSIDE his wound, and then put his finger in his mouth and sucked on it, and THEN started running his finger up and down the pole next to him. So.”
“You know when the subway ceiling sometimes drips in the summer because of a leaky A/C? One time, I saw it dripping so I moved away, and after 5 minutes it got more and more drippy, and then just like straight up waterfalled onto the person next to me,” one Prospect Heights resident says.
Still, compared to the subways of storied 1970s New York, today’s trains are downright luxurious. “In 1979, half the seats had been set on fire, and you were likely to sit on a twisted hunk of melted plastic,” longtime New York-based author Kate Manning writes in an email. “On the L train, wilding teens liked to set fire to the hair of sleeping homeless men. The trains were liable to stop in the tunnels and the lights would go out and there would be no air conditioning and you would sit sweating in the dark without anyone telling you what was happening while guys would grope your thighs.”
So let’s all be grateful for the rats and the shit and the leaky A/Cs.