Ask the MTA: About keeping subways clean and avoiding bad ‘brakes’

Photo by Mark Hallum

Every week, amNewYork Metro presents “Ask the MTA”, where you can seek out answers to your common questions about public transportation in New York City. Send us your questions for the MTA, and we’ll make sure you get an answer! Email us at askthemta[@]amny.com.

Q.) Are the subway cars cleaned or fumigated on regular basis? Could you explain what the MTA does to keep the trains clean after every ride?

A.) All our train cars are cleaned on a nightly basis after they’ve been taken out of service. Our hardworking cleaners sweep and mop the floors and wipe down seats. The car exterior is also washed weekly.

Additionally, our trains get a deep cleaning every 72 days, or about five times a year. This happens overnight after the cars undergo scheduled inspections, before they’re put back into service. 

They receive an intense interior cleaning within the car maintenance facility, where all wall surfaces, door panels, and windows are cleaned using approved disinfectant products. Floors also get a deep scrubbing where all grime, gum and dirt is removed. 

Q.) Every so often, my train is delayed because somebody on another train ahead pulled the emergency brake. What’s being done to prevent people from needlessly bringing trains to a stop?

A.) Over the years, we’ve purchased newer train cars that have more sophisticated features in place to deter customers from pulling the passenger emergency handle. In all cars put into service after the year 2000, emergency handles are located behind a stainless-steel cover, which is equipped with an alarm that sounds if opened.

If the emergency handle is pulled within 600 feet of a station, the train will come to a complete stop. If it’s pulled at a further distance, the on-board diagnostics system will recognize that, and the train will go to the next station before coming to a complete stop – allowing for an easier and safer evacuation if needed. In either case MTA personnel investigate and reset the handle.

While some of our older legacy cars do have exposed emergency cords, many of them also have emergency handles equipped with alarmed cover boxes. We’re looking to replace these older cars within the next 3-10 years.

We strongly urge riders not to needlessly activate the passenger emergency handles; it slows down everyone’s commute. Remember to be considerate of your fellow New Yorkers while riding the subway.

Both answers by John Santamaria, Vice-President & Chief Mechanical Officer – Car Equipment, NYCT