It may be the end of the line for eating on the go down below in New York City -- a state lawmaker has introduced legislation that would outlaw eating in the city’s subway system and impose a $250 fine on violators.
Dining while riding is a divisive issue. Blogs like TrainPigs.com have grown popular playing up the gross-out factor of eating on trains, but State Sen. Bill Perkins says it’s the growing rat population that he’s worried about, saying “we feed them, therefore we breed them.”
Perkins sent out more than 15,000 surveys to his upper Manhattan constituents, and found people are fed up with vermin running rampant in the subway system. The highest number of complaints came from riders at the 125th street subway station for the 4, 5 and 6 trains.
“You see them mostly in the tracks, like just fighting over scraps,” says Joaquin Perez, a commuter from Bedford Stuyvesant.
For more than a decade, all food and drinks have been banned from PATH trains. A spokesperson for that system told NBC New York that the policy works.
Straphangers familiar with both systems seem to favor the ban, saying the PATH system is by far cleaner.
“It would be a great idea,” says Salaam Goines from Jersey City, “but people would have to band together. You know New York City’s not a place where you can pull someone up and let them know, 'Hey you can’t eat on the train right here.'"
The anonymous blogger behind TrainPigs.com had this to say: “The inconsiderate people who eat entire meals with no regard for their fellow commuters spread food and garbage everywhere. Their ignorance has made the rats larger and bolder than ever. It’s time to put an end to this before the actual vermin join the criminals in stealing your iPhones.”
Riders are split overall; some argue there’s good reason to eat on the train.
“Early in the morning if you’re running to class, running to work, you need to have your breakfast or lunch, you never know,” says Ashley Francis, from the Fordham section of the Bronx.
Jason Chin-Fatt, a spokesman for the Straphangers Campaign, says the goal of the proposed ban is a good one but enforcement would be a problem.
“You should focus more on a strong education campaign for anti-litter, maybe even tightening up those laws for anti-litter,” says Chin-Fatt. “Hopefully that would help ease some of the food and rodent stuff we’re seeing in the stations.”
The MTA said it is “studying the legislation.” Meanwhile, Perkins is in the process of scheduling public hearings on the bill, and hopes if it has enough support, it will pass before the end of the legislative session in late June.