Time to Ban Eating on the Subway
by Mark Riley
posted Feb 1 2012 12:04PM
If there's one topic that's generated a great deal of heat on the WWRL Morning Show this week, it's been whether to ban eating on the New York City subway. People who called in ran the gamut from "it's disgusting to eat on the train", to "it's class warfare"! At issue is a bill introduced by Manhattan State Senator Bill Perkins that would not only ban eating or drinking on the train, but also impose a first time fine of $250.00. Senator Perkins says the bill seeks to curb eating not for appearances sake, but because of the huge spike in the rat population underground.
Being a man of a certain age, I can remember the day when it seemed the subway system encouraged people to eat. There were vending machines that offered candy and gum, as well as underground eateries that stayed open 24 hours a day. I remember the one near the Times Square shuttle on the West Side. Early most mornings, the smell of freshly made doughnuts wafted through the station, mixing with the countless other smells, some good, some bad. One would have to conclude the rat problem either wasn't that bad, or the cause and effect of rats and food (and garbage) had not yet become apparent.
Even today, cavernous spaces like the 47-50th St. station under 6th Ave. still have a number of places where straphangers can buy food. So it's fair to ask whether a ban on eating anywhere on trains, in stations, or on platforms means these places would end up closing. The larger issue, however, can be summed up by two videos which have gone viral on the Web. One is a physical altercation between two women on a train when one takes umbrage at the other eating spaghetti. The other is a rat crawling all over a sleeping sunbway passenger. He slept alright, until the rat scampered over his face.
As difficult as it may be to change the habits of the hard core New Yorker (or tourist who doesn't know any better), it's time to ban eating on the trains. As one who has had to confront rodents that look like they're on steroids, anything that has the potential to help decrease their population underground neds to be done. Rats are a fact of New York life, and you're never going to get rid of all of them, especially the dark, wet environment of the subway.
Yet it can't be denied that making life more difficult for them makes life better for us.
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