ttc snow clearing

Here's how the TTC keeps subway tracks clear after major snow events

Toronto is preparing for another long, snowy winter, and that includes the TTC.

The public transit agency showed off some of its specialized snow-clearing equipment on social media earlier in December to show its preparedness for the season of snowfall.

The TTC's Stuart Green tells blogTO that "winter has been creating more challenges for us on Line 3 in recent years, given the age of the infrastructure," adding, "It's one of the reasons we are closing the line down next year."

"However, we do try our best to keep the line running through the inclement weather," says Green, explaining that the TTC conducts "proactive inspections of switch heaters, and we have a work car with a large brush to sweep the power rail clear of snow."

"One of the most effective ways to keep the line running is to run 'storm cars' overnight. This is a technique we will also use in the open-cut areas of Lines 1 and 2," says Green, referring to the exposed outdoor stretches of the line where snow can accumulate.

"We also have a snow blower attachment that can be mounted to the front of the work car to help clear tracks," explains Green, clarifying that these are used for right-of-way, tracks, and switches, while brush attachments are used on power rails.

But, as commuters have learned all too well in recent years, these work cars alone often aren't enough to deal with the aftermath of major storms like the freak blizzard that blanketed Toronto with snow back in January 2022.

That storm left Line 3 inoperable for weeks after the snowfall as the transit agency scrambled to clear the route.

It's worth noting that, unlike the heavy rail tracks of the other TTC rapid transit lines, which feature an electrified third rail, the Scarborough RT is powered by finicky linear induction motors which rely on magnets in the trackbed with very precise tolerances that aren’t helped by snow and ice.

"In the worst-case scenarios, we will close the line and run a full bus replacement," says Green, specifying that the TTC deploys roughly two dozen replacement buses during peak periods.

"In the rare cases we make that call, we try to do so proactively, so we have time to communicate the change to customers as they plan their trips."

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