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The MTA could institute a full or partial ban on certain foods in particular, including... rice?

July 19, 2017

You may be able to take your dog on New York City's subways, but soon enough, you may have to pack up your potato chips before heading underground. After a garbage fire on subway tracks in Harlem delayed thousands of rush-hour travelers, the Metropolitan Transit Authority is considering banning all food from the subway as a way to reduce the amount of combustible trash that makes its way onto the tracks.

On Tuesday, MTA chairman Joe Lhota said the board will discuss which foods, if not all foods, should be banned from the system. (It's not looking good for rice.)

"There have been a lot of recommendations about what foods are appropriate [and] what foods are not," Lhota told reporters at a press conference Tuesday, before relaying a recent experience on the No. 2 train. "Someone got on with a Styrofoam [container filled] with Chinese food. ... There was a lot of rice and other things. Inevitably the rice fell—it was all over the place. I want to avoid things like that."

However, Lhota also told reporters there is a chance there won't be a ban at all, but more of a strong suggestion. "It may be an education program about what kinds of foods shouldn't be brought on," he said. Like, you know, rice in Styrofoam containers.

Lhota said there will be a 30-day report from the MTA, completed at the end of July, that will review the transit system and include any recommendations for food. To institute a food ban, the MTA would need a majority of its 17 board members to vote for it—and it seems at least some board members are seriously considering the idea.

"It's probably a good idea considering the rodent problem, the overflowing-trash-can problem, and the track-fire problem," MTA board member Andrew Albert told the New York Post. However, he did admit it would be tough to ban some foods but not all foods. "Would a frankfurter not be OK but Pez would be OK?" Albert asked. Ah yes, the old "frankfurter-Pez paradox."

Right now, you can eat and drink on New York City's subways, however signage in many cars could lead you to believe the contrary. It's illegal, however, to eat on subways in Washington DC, San Francisco, and Chicago, the Post says.

"I want to get to the point where we have no fires in the system," Lhota said. "These fires all start with trash being thrown down there. We need to stop throwing trash on the tracks."