Tuesday, December 06, 2011

NYCT's new plan for weathering winter

Written by  Luther S. Miller, Senior Consulting Editor

It has long been a proud boast of passenger rail operators that their trains run when noting else does. That can be costly, as New York subways, which move five million riders a day, found in the snowy winter of 2010-1011. So MTA New York City Transit has come up with a new plan, which is essence says: Suspend service before service suspends itself on snowy, icy outdoor track and third rail.

The plan was developed in response to the events of Dec. 26, 2010, when a blizzard crippled the system.

mta_logo.jpg“The most important shift in agency thinking was moving away from the philosophy that we will deliver service until we can't,” said NYCT President Tom Prendergast in announcing the shift in thinking on Tuesday. “We learned from last year’s storm that at some point, it was safer and more prudent to temporarily suspend service.”

Until early 2011, Plan Level IV was the highest level of response to a winter weather. It was activated when a snowfall of five inches or more was forecast. Plan Level V is now called when the forecast is for a weather event that “may require an orderly and temporary suspension in service on select line segments, to allow for snow and ice removal.”

This is not the first time this year that circumstances have led NYCT to ditch tradition. Managers recently decided to close whole sections oftrack overnight or longer for maintenance or construction, a first for a system that was long the only major metro in the world to remain open 24 hours a day, and perform maintenance under traffic. That was possible, though not always easy, on a system where most of the system is double-tracked in each direction for local and express service.

New York MTA also announced plans for suspending service under certain wintry conditions on the nation’s two busiest regional rail lines, the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North.