Subways Putting New Portable Vacuum Prototypes to Test

Workers are testing one of two new prototypes of portable vacuum systems that the MTA is developing for use in station and track areas.
Credit: Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Keeping the subways clean is a daunting task: 472 stations, 662 track miles, and 40 tons of trash that need to be picked up and hauled away every day. For MTA New York City Transit, cleaning up is performed by a combination of manpower and powerful vacuum trains, but now Transit is getting some help: portable track vacuums.

NYC Transit is testing two prototypes of portable vacuum systems that can be quickly deployed and easily used without special equipment such as work trains. Both prototypes are powered by lithium iron phosphate batteries that supply enough electricity for strong suction but can be moved from station to station on a regular passenger train and be operated from the platform. The prototypes are the third phase in an ongoing multi-pronged cleanup initiative, Operation Track Sweep, to dramatically reduce the amount of trash on tracks and improve the station environment, which in turn will help reduce debris fires that cause train delays.

These units are being put to the test in Manhattan and Queens for 30 to 45 days, with the goal of perfecting a vacuum unit that can be used in all subway station and track environments in order to supplement Transit’s existing fleet of vacuum trains.

 

 

A video outlining Operation Track Sweep is available online. Phase 1, launched in June 2016, was the implementation of a new cleaning schedule that reprioritized stations based on the amount of trash that accumulate, and increased track cleaning. Phase 2, launched in September 2016, was an intensive, two-week system-wide cleaning involving 469 stations and more than 10 miles of track.

Operation Track Sweep continues with a fourth phase in 2017, when the first of three new powerful track vacuum trains is due to arrive. In the meantime, customers are encouraged to help whenever possible: use a trash receptacle or carry their garbage with them as they exit the subway train or station. Every little bit helps! 

The MTA is testing two prototypes of powerful – but portable -- track vacuum systems that can be quickly deployed, operated from platforms, and moved easily from one station to the next.
The MTA is testing two prototypes of powerful – but portable -- track vacuum systems that can be quickly deployed, operated from platforms, and moved easily from one station to the next.