Drain Cleaning Improves Performance of New York City Subway System

Excess water in the system causes malfunctioning sensors and switches

Drain Cleaning Improves Performance of New York City Subway System

(Photo by New York Daily News)

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The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is finally making progress on a problem that has long plagued New York City’s subway system: clogged drains.

A recent report by the New York Daily News details the efforts that have been made to clear the subway system’s 10,000 drains, which are meant to accommodate 13 million gallons of water on dry days and millions more on rainy days. But for many years, the majority of those drains were completely clogged with several feet of mud, silt and trash.

“The whole system was ineffective. The water didn’t get to the end, where it’s got to go,” a Metropolitan Transportation Authority source tells the New York Daily News

Excess water in the system produces many problems, such as malfunctioning sensors and switches. 

A push to address the problem goes back to 2006 when a report was generated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's inspector general following a heavy rain event that flooded the subway. 

“Transit didn’t even have good maps of where its drains and check valves were located,” Beth Keating, an inspector general employee, tells the New York Daily News. “We went into archives and into engineers’ basements. We found the drainage locations and started taking people out with us to look at them.”

But that information never led to any action.

“The clogged drains were a symptom of a system that’s diseased,” John Samuelsen, Transport Workers Union International president, tells the New York Daily News. “The reason the drains got clogged to begin with is because there were no resources being pumped into the subway. The cleaning of the drains became less of a priority than something that could trigger a derailment.”

(Photo by New York Daily News)
(Photo by New York Daily News)

But two years ago, the $836 million Subway Action Plan was established to save the subways and a portion of that money was dedicated to a drain cleaning project. According to the New York Daily News report, 99% of the drains have been cleared in the past two years and a system has been set up to keep better track of drain locations and help determine cleaning schedules.

“Now we’re doing a sampling program that tracks how silt and debris affects different key drains so that we can put effective cycles in place to maintain these improvements,” Sally Librera, New York City Transit’s head of subways, tells the New York Daily News.

Officials hope the new proactive measures stick, especially since a signal system upgrade is coming that would improve the speed of trains. However, the equipment is not waterproof.

“Signal systems are sensitive to water. No doubt that’s something you want to invest — keeping water out to protect the equipment,” Keating tells the New York Daily News. “The concern for everyone is what’s going to happen in future years. We might go back in five years and find out the drains are clogged. They’re going to make promises right now, but the pattern we have observed too often is that we have to continually monitor progress or it will slide right back.”

Source: New York Daily News


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