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MTA Announces All-Agency Preparations Ahead of Winter Storm

Updated February 17, 2021 4:42 p.m.

Customers Urged to Avoid Non-Essential Travel with Winter Storm Watch in Effect Thursday Morning Into Friday Morning


All Local Buses to be Fitted with Chains, Speed Restriction in Effect on MTA Bridges


With Thursday’s winter storm expected to bring up to eight inches of snow across the New York Metro area, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) today detailed all-agency preparations being made to keep customers and employees safe while delivering as much reliable service as possible. Articulated buses will be removed from the road starting Wednesday night ahead of the storm and remaining local buses will be fitted with chains. A 35-mph speed restriction on all MTA Bridges will be implemented once the storm begins.

The MTA urges customers to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel during the storm. MTA employees will be spreading salt and clearing surfaces of snow and ice, keeping signals, switches, and third rail operating; will remove any downed trees that may fall across tracks; and will attend to any weather-related challenges during the storm.

“The very practice of preparing for storms is a critical part of ensuring our customers and employees are safe, which is why we have undertaken extensive planning for winter storms,” said Patrick Warren, MTA Chief Safety and Security Officer and Acting Chief Operating Officer of New York City Transit.

“While we are encouraging riders to avoid non-essential travel, the system will be running for the essential workers who need it and we do not expect to have to curtail above-ground service given the current forecast,” said Demetrius Crichlow, Acting Executive Vice President, New York City Transit Department of Subways. “Crews from New York City Transit will be out before, during and after the storm to make sure staircases and platforms are clear, but customers are still encouraged to check for service changes before they travel.”

“We are carefully monitoring road conditions and will be working with our partners at the New York City Department of Sanitation to make sure bus routes are passable,” said Craig Cipriano, President of the MTA Bus Company and Senior Vice President for Buses, MTA New York City Transit. “Throughout the storm there may be delays, and customers are encouraged to check the MYmta app or new.mta.info for the latest service updates.”

“MTA Bridges and Tunnels has more than 100 piece of pieces of snow-fighting equipment and millions of pounds of salt, and our personnel are at the ready for when this storm hits,” said Daniel F. DeCrescenzo Jr., President of MTA Bridges and Tunnels. “The safety of drivers and our employees is our top priority.”

New York City Subway and Staten Island Railway

While the underground portions of the subway system remain unaffected during snowstorms, there are nearly 220 miles of outdoor track throughout the boroughs. The Rockaway , Sea Beach  , Flushing  , Brighton  and Dyre Av   lines are particularly vulnerable to snow and freezing precipitation. To prevent subway trains from being blocked in yards, they may be moved and stored underground in anticipation of heavy snow or ice.

New York City Transit has a fleet of snow and ice-fighting trains designed to keep outdoor tracks, switches and third rails clear of snow and ice. High-powered snow throwers, jet-powered snow-blowers, and de-icing cars – retired subway cars modified with tanks and other specialized equipment to spray de-icing fluid on the third rail – are ready for immediate deployment. Additional employees will be at stations and in yards to assist with snow response.

New York City Buses

Articulated buses throughout the city will be parked for the event until storm passes and local buses will be used. All local buses will be fitted with chains.

Bus managers have technology that tracks headways and service in real time allowing them to make service related decisions more efficiently. Bus service will be adjusted based on road conditions around the city and service curtailments on a route-by-route basis are possible.

New York City Transit and the MTA Bus Company have 35 snow-fighting vehicles in its fleet, which operate on predetermined routes to quickly reach terminals, lay-over locations, and other highly trafficked areas and known hotspots.

MTA Bridges and Tunnels

MTA Bridges and Tunnels personnel have activated full inclement weather preparedness for all facilities and the Operations Command Center Weather Desk will monitor the forecast. A 35-mph speed restriction on all MTA Bridges will be implemented once the storm begins.

Bridges and Tunnels will be closing its pedestrian walkways as of 12:01 a.m. Thursday on the Henry Hudson Bridge, Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge and the Cross Bay Veteran's Memorial Bridge.

Over 6,200 tons of roadway deicer and 115 pieces of storm fighting equipment readied and available for deployment.

Bridges are equipped with embedded roadway sensors for temperature and above-ground atmospheric sensors that deliver real-time information on wind velocity, wind direction, humidity and precipitation via wireless communication. Additional restrictions may be put in place if conditions warrant. All non-critical roadwork will be suspended during the storm with contractors on-site and/or available to assist with weather-related response.

Any flooding conditions will be closely monitored and appropriate mitigation measures will be put into place as needed.

Metro-North Railroad

Metro-North Rail Road will operate on a regular weekday schedule. Customers should anticipate scattered delays due to the weather.

Metro-North is closely monitoring conditions and may further modify or suspend service if snowfall is heavy. In ice storms, blizzards, or sustained winds over 39 mph, train service may be severely curtailed or suspended, especially if there are frozen switches, downed trees, or a loss of third rail or overhead catenary power.

Snow-fighting equipment is winterized, tested, and strategically positioned at facilities around the system. Protective heat circuits are being verified to be operational, air brake lines are being purged of any moisture to prevent them from freezing, and electric trains are being fitted with special third rail shoes to prevent snow from accumulating.

Metro-North Railroad installed third rail scraper shoes on its electric trains to clear snow/ice off electrified third rails, is shrouding exposed train couplers with snow covers, is treating exposed shoes with deicer, and is spraying door panels with anti-freeze agent.

Switches – the interlocking tracks that allow rail traffic controllers to route trains from one track to another – are being treated with an anti-freeze agent and lubricated. Metro-North Railroad uses electric switch heaters to melt snow.

Long Island Rail Road

The LIRR is closely monitoring weather forecasts as the upcoming storm nears its service area, and is planning to run normal schedules throughout the duration of the storm. If snowfall becomes heavy, delays and/or service changes (including temporary suspensions), may occur.

With snow on the way, LIRR station waiting rooms are open 24/7 starting today, Wednesday, Feb. 17, with normal station waiting room hours scheduled to resume on Saturday, Feb. 20.

Typically, in ice storms, blizzards, or sustained winds over 39 mph, train service may be severely curtailed or suspended, especially if there are frozen switches or there is a loss of third rail power.

Railroad crews will be out across the service territory working to keep trains moving for those who need them. De-icing trains will be running to keep rails clear of snow and ice, while crews will be strategically positioned throughout the system helping to keep switches clear and operable.

Those who must travel are urged to be cautious on station staircases/platforms and when boarding/exiting trains. Customers are encouraged to check the LIRR TrainTime app, MyMTA app, or new.mta.info. Customers can chat live with LIRR customer service agents daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. through the LIRR TrainTime app for any service-related questions.


Access-A-Ride paratransit will continue to provide service. Trips will be non-shared ride and feeder service is suspended. Customers may experience additional delays and wait times. Customers may want to consider adjusting or canceling their travel plans. The Paratransit Command Center will be monitoring the storm to track and respond to any customer or day of service issues. Please be advised we will operate one day in advance reservations.

Real-Time Service Updates

Customers should check new.mta.info as well the MYmta app for updates and modified emergency schedules, as well as the LIRR Train Time and Metro-North Train Time apps for the commuter railroads.