“Will New Yorkers stop throwing things away in the subway if there is no place to put them?”

October 24th, 2011

What an interesting Freakonomics style experiment–the MTA is eliminating trash cans in subway stations in the hopes that people throw less stuff away.

So far, the results are promising: the number of garbage bags still sitting on station platforms at 6 a.m. has been cut in half.

The no-bin experiment is a more unusual approach, but it has precedent. In London, bins are banned from some Underground stations; in Washington, a similar program was abandoned because of riders’ complaints.

The PATH train has had no bins since 2001 because of security concerns. Since the removal, “it seems there is less trash,” said Ron Marsico, a spokesman, although he noted that the PATH system was smaller and more easily cleaned than the subway.

The platform seemed relatively clean on Monday at one of the no-bin stops, at the Eighth Street and Broadway station in Greenwich Village, although it was clear that customers seeking a way to discard their refuse had improvised: an empty Starbucks cup sat perched on a support beam, by a folded-up paper pizza plate.

Update: And Freakonomics did review this article:

Similar experiments have also had mixed results in other cities. While some Underground stations in London have no trash cans, Washington D.C.  abandoned its bin-less experiment because of riders’ complaints.  Seems to me that removing trashcans to reduce trash is sort of akin to removing highways to reduce traffic, which has worked in some cities.