Every so often, city officials take a leap of faith into commoning: Curatiba and NYC turning heavily trafficked streets into asphalt parks; towns in Sweden, Germany, New Zealand, UK, and Netherlands remove traffic signals and road signs to lower wrecks and traffic jams (video); and Sao Paolo outlawing all outdoor advertising. These all tend to be so counterintuitive to traditional management thinking that onlookers scoff and wait for failure and ruin. What surprises most, even the cities who test these measures, is that these actions work. Local business does increase despite roads being closed to traffic. Wrecks and congestion do decrease despite there being no network of traffic signals or signage. Despite the cries from advertisers and media companies, the vast majority of citizens say the outlawing of advertising makes cities a better place to live.
Stepping into this trend is New York City’s MTA. In an effort to reduce the commuter trash overflowing from trash cans and strewn everywhere in the the city’s subways, MTA officials decided to do the counterintuitive: they decrease the number trash cans available to commuters. The results surprised everyone:
“…trash cans were removed from two subway stations last year, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority says the counterintuitive plan has worked: trash hauls have decreased, it said, and the stations are cleaner.
“’I’m actually very intrigued by this,’ said Joseph J. Lhota, the transportation authority’s chairman, before urging riders to treat the subway ‘as you would treat your home.’”
While the results aren’t perfect, authorities said that in plain numbers, its been remarkable: the number of trash bags hauled out by workers has decreased by 50 percent and 67 percent at the two stations. The MTA described the logic of the program simply: If there is nowhere to discard trash, riders will take it with them — often outside of a station. Asked if the measure could eventually be extended into a systemwide policy, Mr. Lhota said, “It could be.”
There’s also been a few positive externalities as well: fewer rats and an uptick in business for newsstands. I think anything that keeps the subway rats out of sight is something all New Yorkers can get behind.