NEW YORK — Throwing an empty chip bag onto the subway tracks could soon have financial consequences.
The fine for littering in the subway system is set to double from $50 to $100, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday. New fines, which will go into effect in seven days, are designed to slash levels of subway trash. Garbage in the subway system is a leading cause of track fires and delays.
"Littering is not only illegal but dangerous and directly causes hundreds of thousands of delays, inconveniencing millions of New Yorkers," Governor Cuomo said. "This initiative will help stop littering-related delays at the source, improving reliability and helping the MTA deliver the subway service that New Yorkers deserve."
Issues with the system's power supply also contribute to subway delays. Governor Cuomo visited the subway in August with representatives from Con Edison and MTA to emphasize the relationship between agencies. Governor Cuomo has promised billions of dollars in state money for improvements and operations of the agency.
The "Keep It Clean" initiative comes several months after a July track fire in Harlem during rush hour affected over 1 million commuters across eight different subway lines — a full one-third of the entire subway system.
The number of track fires, which are largely caused by trash on the tracks, is way down in recent years, according to MTA Chairman Joe Lhota. Littering contributes to about 700 fire-related incidents on the tracks every year.
The new initiative joins an already existing plan — Operation Track Sweep — designed to clean up the subway system. There's a dedicated team of employees with new portable vacuums to suck up trash on the tracks. More are on the way and additional vacuum trains are on order.
New trains and signal systems are essential parts of the long term solutions.
MTA officials earlier reviewed the pros and cons of a potential ban on certain kinds of food in the subway system to minimize trash issues. They did not implement that idea.
"We need to make sure the trash doesn’t get down there," Lhota previously said.