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MTA Prepares for Winter Weather Conditions

MTA New York City Transit, MTA Metro-North Railroad, MTA Long Island Rail Road, and MTA Bridges and Tunnels are preparing for winter weather conditions expected to affect our region Tuesday through Wednesday morning.

MTA personnel will continue to monitor the U.S. National Weather Service and have direct access to a customized weather prediction service that provides regularly updated weather forecasts.  Accurate forewarning of a snow event translates into adequate preparation times, allowing officials to decide whether to hold workers after their shifts and bring others in prior to the beginning of a storm.

The Incident Command Center has been activated.   As a result of the storm, FASTRACK on the E SubwayF SubwayM SubwayR SubwayQueens Blvd. Line has been canceled for the remainder of the week.  With the exception of the long term service changes on the 6 Subway, N Subway and R Subway, all Planned Service Changes scheduled for overnight Tuesday 1/21 into Wednesday 1/22 have been canceled.

The Department of Subways will be salting platforms and customers are reminded to use caution while walking on outdoor platforms and stairs. Deicers are ready to be deployed and a yellow-hued fleet of snow and ice-busting equipment designed to keep outdoor tracks, switches and third rails clear of snow and ice, are being fueled and stations will be staffed to deice platforms as required.  Super-powered snow throwers, jet-powered snow-blowers, and de-icing cars – retired subway cars modified with tanks and other specialized equipment to spray de-icing fluid on the third rail  are ready for immediate deployment.

To prevent subway trains from being blocked in yards, they will be moved and stored underground in anticipation of heavy snow or ice.  This will impact service on lines with express service starting Tuesday evening.

While the underground portions of the system remain unaffected during snowstorms, there are nearly 220 miles of outdoor track throughout the boroughs.  The Rockaway, Sea Beach, Brighton and Dyre Av Lines are particularly vulnerable to snow and freezing precipitation.  During a heavy snowstorm, tracks on outdoor subway lines must be cleared often, the third rails kept free of ice and outdoor steps at all 468 subway stations shoveled and salted.  Elevated lines do not have the problem of snow build up as the flakes fall between the ties, but platforms and staircases still must be kept clear of snow and salted to melt ice.  


Extra personnel, including mechanics and operators, will be brought in over the next several days to cover the storm.  Maintenance activities have already begun in anticipation of the cold weather. Buses are currently being chained and the number of articulated buses will be minimized as the department makes maximum use of standard buses. To make traveling easier for bus customers, the Department of Buses will deploy an assortment of snow fighters, road trucks and tow trucks.  Salt-spreading trucks equipped with plows will be ready to go as needed.  They work in cooperation with the Department of Sanitation to keep bus routes clear and passable.  In cases of severe weather and impassable roads, bus service will be suspended rather than risk having buses get stuck on the roads.  Customers can anticipate delays throughout the region as road conditions deteriorate.  

Metro-North Railroad & Long Island Rail Road

Platforms will continue to be heavily salted.  Extra engineers and signal maintainers are being called in. Both railroads will take steps to ensure that switches – the interlocking tracks that allow rail traffic controllers to route trains from one track to another – are working throughout the storm. The railroads are activating switch heaters, lubricating the switches and treating them with anti-freeze agents. Rail Traffic Controllers will activate the switches to keep them from freezing shut. In addition, track workers will be positioned in critical locations to be able to respond if any difficulties do crop up at switches.


Due to the prediction of potential snowfall starting Tuesday, Paratransit customers may experience additional travel and wait times. Depending on conditions, customers may want to reconsider travel, unless medically necessary. For our Access-A-Ride paratransit service, a dashboard storm monitoring system is in place to track immobilized vehicles and customers.  NYCT has also coordinated a procedure with New York City first responders and the Office of Emergency Management for rescuing customers on immobilized vehicles or those who develop medical needs during storms.  Also in place is a new paratransit-specific Storm Action Plan that includes processes for curtailing all non-medically essential service.

Bridges and Tunnels

Bridges and Tunnels will have snow fighting equipment in service and available for storm fighting operations.  This includes salt/plow combos and tow trucks. There are 7,250 tons of salt on hand. Appropriate levels of staffing will be in place to assist with mitigation of snow & ice build-up as well as to sustain the normal operation of all of our bridges and both tunnels. Bridges also are equipped with embedded roadway sensors for temperature and above-ground atmospheric sensors that deliver real-time information on wind velocity, wind direction, humidity and precipitation via wireless communication. These sensors record data used to determine if speed restrictions are necessary.

Lastly, to enhance our communications with customers, MTA has taken steps to insure its communications systems function well during any type of emergency.    The current website design allows for the quick posting of service information and includes a special weather page that becomes the homepage during weather-related events affecting operations.  Customers are urged to monitor the regularly as well as television and radio for service updates.