Management & Operations

N.Y. parks subway cars underground to avoid frigid temps

Posted on January 23, 2014

Credit: MTAPhotos

By Charles Seaton, director corporate communications, New York City Transit

New York City is not a place known for an over-abundance of free parking spaces and when the weather turns especially nasty even MTA New York City Transit’s subway fleet must be moved to alternate spots for overnight storage.

Credit: MTAPhotos/ Marc Hermann
Credit: MTAPhotos/ Marc Hermann
Normally, subway cars not needed for overnight service are parked in one of the system’s 14 outdoor subway yards, like the 207th Street Yard in Manhattan’s Inwood section or Brooklyn’s Coney Island Yard. But extremely cold, snowy or icy weather requires trains be parked underground along the express tracks of lines around the system. Deep snow, frigid temperatures and icy buildup on the third rails are liable to trap trains inside the yards, rendering them useless when needed and also making it far more difficult to clear the yards of snow.

New York City Transit has a cold-weather plan developed to protect the system against harsh weather and trains are parked underground when:
•    Temperature is 10ºF or less, or
•    Freezing rain and/or icing, or
•    Snow accumulation of 5-feet or more is forecast.

While customers benefit by having warm, comfortable trains ready for the next rush hour, the other side of the coin is the requirement that express service end early.      

“We are one of only two subway systems in the world with express tracks and this gives us a tremendous amount of flexibility, including the ability to store hundreds of cars in areas where they can be safe from the weather and easily accessible when needed for the next rush period,” said Assistant Chief Transportation Officer Pamela Elsey.

The first winter storm of 2014 and the following days of frigid weather required the activation of the cold weather plan. When express service was halted and the lay-up process begun, trains were pulled onto assigned locations and then parked one behind the other. Train operators were able to walk through the trains and then out at the nearest station. In the morning, that process is reversed. Train operators clear the trains one by one and then move them into their terminals to begin their morning runs.

The underground train parking system has been in place for decades and in the past, it was especially important because the older trains had air-operated systems that were prone to freezing.

Today’s trains are a lot more dependable, but they still need a little tender loving care and a warm, dry place to spend the night.


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