MTA New York City Transit Prepares for Winter Weather

MTA New York City Transit's Department of Subways maintains a fleet of snow and ice-busting equipment designed to keep outdoor tracks and the third rail clear of snow and ice during harsh winter weather events.

The fleet includes super-powered snow throwers, jet-powered snow-blowers, and specially-built de-icing cars, all designed to keep service moving even under the harshest of conditions. Additionally, NYC Transit has created a cold weather poster explaining how subway service may be affected in the event of a winter storm.

Whenever there is a prediction of cold and snowy weather, New York City Transit follows an established winter plan deploying employees and machines to keep subway and bus service operating as close to normal as possible.

"Our goal is to keep our services up and running so that our customers can get to where they need to be no matter what the weather," said NYC Transit President Thomas F. Prendergast. We have made a tremendous investment in machinery, manpower and experience so that customer confidence can remain high in our ability to transport them safely to their destinations."

While the subway portions of the system remain unaffected during snow and ice events, there are nearly 220 miles of outdoor track around the system and NYC Transit has heavy-duty equipment designed to move snow, melt ice and do anything else required to maintain service during harsh winter weather. Routes running along the surface and in open cuts, such as the Rockaway Line, the Sea Beach and the Dyre Ave. Line, are particularly vulnerable to snow and freezing weather.

During a heavy snowstorm, tracks on outdoor subway lines must be cleared often, and the third rails kept free of ice. Also, the outdoor steps at all 468 subway stations must be shoveled and salted along with the platforms on the outdoor segments of lines.

Forecasts of accumulating snow also require NYC Transit to shift the storage locations of subway cars indoors. Idle trains that would normally be laid up in storage yards or along unused outdoor tracks are instead stored along underground express tracks. Of course, use of these tracks for storage purpose requires us to suspend express service early in some locations.

To make traveling easier for bus customers, the Department of Buses has its own fleet of snow fighting equipment, particularly the salt-spreading trucks equipped with plows assigned to each depot. They work in cooperation with the Department of Sanitation to keep bus routes clear and passable.

As always, visit for subway and bus service status or sign up for email alerts. It's the best way to know before you go.

Subway Snow Fighting Equipment

Snow Throwers (four) - Precise directional snow throwing equipment. Includes a two stage impeller and side mounted rotating brushes to throw snow up to 200 feet and can remove 3,000 tons of snow an hour. This is similar to a household snow blower, just a lot bigger.

Jet Blowers (five) - This equipment uses a jet engine to remove accumulated snow from the roadbed and deposit it a distance from the tracks so that it cannot slide back. This piece of equipment is used primarily to keep the yards clear.

De-Icer Cars (six) - Equipped with scraper shoes that scrape off ice and also uses equipment to direct a stream of deicing fluid to melt and/or prevent ice buildup on the third rail. If ice is permitted to build up, subway car power pickup equipment will not be able to draw electric current from the third rail and the train will stop.

Ballast Regulator -; Uses brush/broom to evenly sweep and push up snow onto an undercab conveyer and away from the track.

Rider Cars -; Heated/Insulated work cars that can be used to carry crews and equipment to snow removal work sites. These cars are equipped with ice-scraping equipment to help keep the third rail clear.

Locomotives -; All Diesel Locomotives are equipped with small snow plows at both ends to assist in scraping snow and ice off the road bed and transporting the other snow removal work cars. The locomotives are also fitted with scraper shoes to remove ice from the third rail.