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A pigeon's paradise at subway station

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JACK LAKEY/TORONTO STAR
Pigeons are a fixture near bakery at Islington station, pouncing on morsels.

Mar 12, 2008 04:30 AM
Jack Lakey
Staff Reporter

A lot of subway stations could stand a good scrubbing, but at least the scavenger birds are doing their part to keep Islington clean.

Two-thirds of the emails and calls we got for our week of stories about TTC stations were about dirt and garbage. The cleanliness of stations is obviously a top priority for riders.

Yesterday, we visited Islington and Kipling, two stations on the far west of the Bloor line that were readers rated among the grubbiest of the 69 subway stops. They did not overstate the case.

Kipling was described in one email as a “war zone” and it lived up to that billing. The washrooms could be smelled 20 metres away. A half-dozen buckets were scattered at the concourse level to catch water leaking from the roof, with at least as many puddles forming in other places. To deal with the water leaking above a staircase, a large sign was placed in a janitor’s garbage cart and ingeniously angled to funnel the water into the cart.

Dozens of starlings have infested Kipling, roosting in an area above the door to the women’s washroom where they dump on people passing below. When hungry, they swoop down on bins at the concourse level and forage for food.

To be fair to the cleaning staff, the platforms at both stations were mostly free of litter, which can pile up rapidly due to the absence of receptacles there. They were removed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks lest they get used to conceal bombs, but the litter problem on platforms and the subway tracks has the TTC rethinking that policy.

A transit employee told us several small fires are ignited each week when trash comes into contact with the electrified third rail. More on that this Saturday.

The TTC’s janitorial staff is stretched thin, according to several emails we received from cleaning staff. Two of them mentioned a culture of apathy and indifference in their ranks, and another thought this column picks on them.

On average, 38 janitors work the day shift on a weekday, cleaning the 69 stations, and 22 on weekends - picking up after 1.5 million riders. When it comes to the morsels of food hitting the floor at Islington station, the cleaning corps is outhustled and outnumbered by pigeons out for a free meal.

A server in the bakery said the pigeons are a permanent presence there because people feed them.

What’s broken in your neighbourhood? Wherever you are, we want to know. To email us, go to thestar.com/thefixer and click on the submit a problem link. Or call us at 416-869-4823.




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