What's NYC's Foulest Subway Station?

August 25, 2011

New York City subways were never spotless. But transit advocates say they've gotten even worse. Transportation Alternatives is polling straphangers this week to find the city's foulest smelling stations.

Here is the Transcript:

MELISSA BLOCK, host: If you've ever ridden a subway in New York, you know the stations aren't exactly spotless, but lately, public transit advocates say conditions has gotten even worse. Riders had a chance this week to vote for the foulest smelling station. NPR's Joel Rose reveals the winner of New York's stankiest stop.

JOEL ROSE: Tina West(ph) catches the A train to work at the Grand Avenue Station in East New York, Brooklyn. She says today is actually a good day.

TINA WEST: Well, it doesn't smell as bad as some days.


WEST: So if it's hot down here, you'll usually smell it.

ROSE: West says the other end of the platform is basically a bathroom with no door, which the maintenance crew does its best to keep clean. Karen Towns(ph) uses the station a lot too. She thinks the Metropolitan Transportation Authority or MTA is doing a decent job.

KAREN TOWNS: Is it ideal? No. It could definitely be cleaner. And hopefully, this will bring it to the attention of the MTA.

ROSE: Grand Ave. is one of four finalists in a poll to name the smelliest subway station in New York City or, as Noah Budnick puts it, to rank the stank.

NOAH BUDNICK: This is New York, and there might be things that are malodorous and things that smell bad, but there's nothing worse than stank. There's nothing that is more putrefying or smellier than something that's stanking.

ROSE: Budnick is the deputy director for Transportation Alternatives, a nonprofit that advocates for better public transportation. He met me at the 34th Street-Herald Square Station in Manhattan, which is also one of the finalists.

BUDNICK: It's a big station. There's a lot of crevices, a lot of nooks and crannies for stank to creep up, and a lot of people moving through it. So I think between the combination of a lot of surface area and a lot of noses, it rose to the top of nominees.

ROSE: Starting earlier this week, Transportation Alternatives asked subway riders to nominate the smelliest stations on Facebook. The staff chose four finalists and then asked riders to vote by text message for the stankiest station. Budnick says the idea is not just to pick on the MTA, which operates more than 460 subway stations in New York City, and, by the way, declined to comment. Budnick wants to call attention to what happens when state lawmakers cut funding for public transit.

BUDNICK: Not only do fares go up and service gets cut but the conditions in the station get worse because the MTA has fewer resources to maintain the stations.

ROSE: Melanie Knox(ph) and Asia Briggs(ph) are waiting for a D train to the Bronx. They're divided over whether it is in fact the stankiest station in New York City.

MELANIE KNOX: Well, I don't think it's the worst, but it's one of the worst.

ASIA BRIGGS: They do have a numerous amount of rodents and insects on the platform, which I've never really seen in a station.

ROSE: ..COST: $00.00

This story was originally broadcast on NPR on August 25, 2011. The audio can be downloaded here: