New Transit snow response calls for ‘preemptive curtailment of service’By
Even as temperatures in New York stay unseasonably warm, the MTA is gearing up for snow and ice. After all, the agency doesn’t want a repeat of last winter when the authority somehow managed to forget about a stranded train. So yesterday, the authority unveiled its winter preparedness plan. It’s nothing too outlandish, but as the city wanted to be prepared in the face of Hurricane Irene, so too will it be ready for the first major snowstorm of the season.
“Last winter’s weather was tough for New York and the MTA, but we’ve made improvements to our service protocols, equipment and communications to provide the best possible service this year,” MTA Executive Director Joseph Lhota said. “We’re prepared to clear more snow and ice than ever before and we’ll be working hard to keep service running, but we won’t hesitate to suspend service on parts of our system when it’s necessary to protect the safety of our riders, employees and equipment.”
For the subways, Transit says it is “preparing an impressive fleet of snow and ice-fighting equipment” that will be dispatched in the event of a winter weather plan. The authority has also adopted “procedures for preemptive curtailment of service” in the event of a massive storm. It has also changed its storm response protocols to allow for a Level V response which would be implemented in the face of a massive storm. According to Transit officials, Level V would involve “an orderly and temporary suspension in service on select line segments to allow for snow and ice removal.”
“Our goal has always been to keep our services up and running so that our customers can get to where they need to be no matter what the weather,” Carmen Bianco, senior vice president of subways, said. “We have a tremendous investment in machinery, manpower and experience. But when we performed our review of how we performed during the Christmas weekend blizzard, we determined that there was a point where we should no longer send trains onto the nearly 220 miles of outdoor track of certain lines.”
With respect to buses, Transit and the Department of Sanitation will better align their services to prioritize bus route plowing. Last year, numerous buses were stranded in Brooklyn and Queens for days as plows failed to remove the snow drifts and often trapped buses behind accumulating mounds of snow. The MTA will also be prepared to curtail bus service and remove most articulated buses from the roads as well.
In a way, the MTA had the opportunity to dry-run their winter shutdown plans when Hurricane Irene threatened New York. Although the direst of storm surges did not flood out the subways and the city itself was spared the brunt of the storm, Transit learned what it had to do to get both employees and passengers off the roads and rails safely. Avoiding another winter debacle has now taken center stage.
“The most important shift in agency thinking was moving away from the philosophy that we will deliver service until we can’t,” Transit head Tom Prendergast said. “We learned from last year’s storm that at some point, it was safer and more prudent to temporarily suspend service.”