- The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), the state agency which operates New York's subway system, has begun testing a new portable track vacuum prototype as part of a larger effort to clean up the city's 10 miles of station track.
- The first of two vacuum units has been deployed and will be tested over the course of 30 to 45 days. The units run on lithium iron phosphate batteries and can be transported between stations in standard train cars.
- If the units prove successful, the MTA said it will "move aggressively to acquire and deploy additional units."
This is the third phase in the MTA's Operation Clean Sweep initiative aimed at getting rid of litter that can cause track fires and train delays. Phase 1 began last summer with increased station cleaning schedules, followed by Phase 2 in the fall which involved a two-week system-wide cleaning of all 469 stations by more than 500 workers. Still to come are three new track vacuum trains — the first of which will arrive this year — and 27 new refuse cars to help move waste out of the system faster.
The MTA has been working to manage trash within stations for years through public service announcements and even removing many bins in the hopes that riders will carry out their trash. Results have been mixed and it's still not uncommon to see station tracks with large amounts of litter and standing water that attracts rats. Though as seen in the dry, spotless tracks at three brand new subway stations which opened earlier this month, it doesn't necessarily have to be that way.
Because the MTA is a state agency, Operation Clean Sweep has no relation to the Department of Sanitation's "zero waste" efforts. Though to the average resident or tourist this distinction may not be clear so it's in the best interests of all involved to see this program succeed.