Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Only government researchers could be so stupid as to study rats in the subway

What could be more stating the obvious?
NEW YORK — Rats have infested multiple subway lines in lower Manhattan and often live right in the station walls, according to a rodent expert overseeing what officials say is a new approach to battling rats in the nation's largest subway system.

"We're actually trying to measure what the factors are directly that cause rats to take advantage of certain stations and not others, so we're putting some science into this," said Robert Corrigan, a health department senior research scientist leading the effort.
So how much has this dimwit Corrigan been paid, when Edward Estrella gave the answer for free? Food. Anyone who takes the subway knows that people deliberately throw garbage onto the tracks, and they drop food all over. Now we know about a third factor that's simple disgusting: garbage bags left for days at a time.

Not in this article is that the study also wondered why rats would live in the subway, as opposed to parks and other areas that are more suitable. Here's my free answer: the rats don't know about open spaces and don't need to, because they're living their entire lives in the subway with a steady supply of food.

Here's a novel suggestion: instead of more poison traps, how about taking those MTA workers loafing around in vests and booths and assigning them to take the garbage out, and then sealing up the walls? Rats living inside will have no way to get out and will eventually die, and appropriate materials will contain the decay.

In his marvelous autobiography "An American Doctor's Odyssey," Dr. Victor Heiser wrote about efforts to prevent rats from going from a ship to the docks. The rat is an amazing swimmer, after all, so they'd jump off one ship, swim to a pier, then climb up the wooden supports and onto the docks. The answer was to affix large, thin sheets of metal on the underside of the piers, which were too smooth for rats to climb through. Relatedly, thin sheets of aluminum can be used to seal walls in these "garbage storerooms." Aluminum is plentiful, light, and highly resistant to corrosion. It would need only be thick enough that rats couldn't gnaw through. If the edges are fit snugly (say, an inch deep) into the ceilings, floors and side walls, there would be no cracks for rats to squeeze through. A few coats of flat paint, and presto.

No charge for that, MTA. It took more time to write that out than to think about it.

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