#PizzaRat and his friends test the MTA

More rats will be taking care of the trash for us it seems.

Tumbling, bumbling, scampering down the stairs went the rat and his slice of pizza. Was he just a hungry rodent or the embodiment of the New York dream? Was success just out of reach, as it is for so many strivers, or did he make it back for another bite? (He did come back for another bite, reports the New York Post.)

This week, #PizzaRat, as he quickly became known across the Internet, is having his moment of fame.

Tuesday, in continued rat news, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released an audit of an innovative MTA program meant to reduce trash and rodents in the subways. Since 2011, the MTA has been experimenting with a counterintuitive solution for garbage and the rats attracted to it: Take trash cans out of some stations.

The concept makes a certain strange sense. As long as straphangers cooperate by carrying their trash to their ultimate destinations, the lack of garbage cans prevents the open-garbage feeding frenzy for the subway’s pizza-hungry critters.

But the audit questions the success of the trash program, stating that it’s “not clear” that the chosen stations were cleaner and finding “no evidence” that the program reduced the number of rats.

The MTA disagrees with the comptroller’s assertions, pointing to a substantial decrease in the number of bags of trash collected at each station, which meant that fewer bags needed to be stored and removed.

But the lack of detailed, hard data on cleanliness is unfortunate. Fewer bags do not necessarily translate to fewer rodents, or even a cleaner-seeming station. We’d like to have a better idea, too, of rider satisfaction with the program.

Until there is more conclusive data, the MTA should consider alternatives, or at least shore up its methods. After four years of study, we should have a better idea of whether this is a workable idea. Otherwise, more rats will be taking care of the trash for us.

The Editorial Board