Last week, strolling back and forth on the Gallery Place platform waiting for a delayed Silver Spring-bound Red Line train, I almost stepped on a dead baby rat. The varmint was limp, resting atop a bulb on the platform’s edge while nearby late night Metro riders paced.
I knelt down and leveled my phone to the floor to capture the dead rat within the perspective and scale of the station’s cathedral architecture.
“Don't touch it!” a young lady exclaimed.
“It could be carrying the plague!” a teenager called out.
“The last thing Metro needs is a rat infestation. I’ve been seeing more of them,” an older lady said.
When asked where and when the women had previously seen darting creatures of the underworld, the older lady demurred while the teen haphazardly said, “I see all sorts of critters all the time. That’s why I don’t wear sandals when I ride the train anymore.”
The other evening, waiting for a Fort Totten bound Green Line train at Columbia Heights, I spied a small mouse running along the edge of the platform. As I moved forward it darted for its home in the base of the station pile. Nearby riders didn’t seem to mind, barely raising an eyebrow— the sight commonplace and routine.
To my eye, more rats and rodents appear to be within the Metro than in past years. It also appears that there are more rats in the city. More rats in the city streets would mean a natural flow and push of more rats into the Metro.
Is the number of rats on the Metro going up? Nobody knows.
Metro agency does not collect year-over data to know if the rate is steady, increasing or decreasing, and has not changed its pest control approach.
“Metro compares favorably to most other underground transit systems in this area, primarily due to the system’s 'no eating, no drinking’ policy,” says Ron Holzer with Metro’s Office of Media Relations.
Holzer said Metro brought on a new pest control contractor about a year ago. In 2014, the Washington Post profiled Bob Chialastri, who was then trying his best to keep Metro rodent-free.
Chialastri explained that there's the ordinary field mouse, “which commuters see scurrying in stations from time to time. And you have your plump-keistered Norway rats.”
You have to be mindful of the latter, he said. “Them critters is nasty, you happen to corner one.”
According to Holzer, the contractor inspects stations and facilities on a regular monthly basis, responds to customer and employee complaints and takes corrective action as needed.
“Metro does not maintain data regarding the capture or disposal of rodents, however the workload under our current contract has been consistent and has not changed,” confirmed Holzer.
With a growing rat problem in our city, recently named the 3rd most infested behind only Chicago and New York, what have you seen riding Metro? Have you seen more mice and rats? What other wildlife have you seen?