VIDEO: Watch the MTA clean subway tracks with their new Mobile Vacs

January 20, 2017

This past May the MTA recorded 50,436 subway delays, 697 of which were caused by track fires that could have been ignited by the 40 tons of trash that are removed from the system every day. To curb this ongoing issue, the agency announced in August “Operation Trash Sweep,” an initiative that upped the frequency by which the 622 miles of tracks get cleaned. At the time, the MTA said it would also employ individually-operated Mobile Vacs that workers can use to quickly suck up trash. Yesterday, the agency released a video of the Vacs being tested, which not only shows their incredible force, but gives an overview of how the Operation is shaping up.

The video explains that Operation Trash Sweep is three phases. The first was a new cleaning schedule that redirected resources to the stations most in need and nearly tripled the number of stations that are cleaned every two weeks. Phase two was a system-wide cleaning blitz in which all 469 stations were totally cleaned over just two weeks. Which brings us to phase three, testing out two types of mobile vacuums. The video says they’ve been successful so far, and if that continues for the 30-45 days they’re being tested in Manhattan and Queens, the MTA will purchase more to deploy throughout the system. As the MTA explains:

Both prototypes are powered by lithium iron phosphate batteries that supply enough electricity for strong suction but can be moved from station to station on a regular passenger train and be operated from the platform.

Prior to Operation Trash Sweep, the agency relied on two VakTraks, or vacuum trains, to clean tracks. An earlier article in WNYC explains that they’re “composed of two propulsion cars, two filter cars and one vacuum car” and that they “move through the tracks between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m, cleaning one third of a track bed at a time.” The fourth phase will roll out later this year, when the first of three new vacuum trains arrive.


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