After an upper Manhattan track fire this week reminded them that trash catches fire, the Metropolitan Transit Authority is considering limiting the all-too-familiar practice of stuffing one’s face with hot, messy food while riding the subway. The New York Times reports that MTA chairman Joseph J. Lhota said Tuesday that he’d like to curb inappropriate eating as a way to eliminate fires caused by the ensuing litter.
Lhota recounted an experience he’d had where a fellow straphanger attempted to scarf down a tray of Chinese food on the 2: “Inevitably, the rice fell,” he said. “It was all over the place. I want to avoid things like that.” The MTA has noted that cities like Washington, D.C. have deep-sixed the ricefall threat by completely banning metro meals due to “the labor and cost associated with maintaining the cleanliness of the transportation system as well as for safety reasons.” NYC’s current rules allow it though they prohibit–but don’t really enforce–a rule banning open-container liquids.
Though the number of subway track fires has dropped 90 percent since 1981, the authority is working to reduce them even more; to that end, subway officials are considering a recommendation that that riders eschew messy foods while in transit. Packaged goods, Mr. Lhota said, are “less disruptive.””It may be an education program about what types of foods really shouldn’t be brought on,” though he wasn’t ready to rule out the idea of a ban.
In 2012, Lhota, in a previous stint as MTA chairman, delicately sidestepped a similar ban saying he’d seen children eating breakfast on the train and that he feared a ban would affect minority communities. Gene Russianoff, leader of rider advocacy group Straphangers Campaign, thinks a ban on subway scarfing would be about as hard to enforce as a nail-clipping ban: “It’s not like I would hand out individual slices to Pizza Rat on the subway. But there are people who have no choice–they’re going from work to school.”