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Winter Travel Guide

Severe winter weather can create hazardous travel conditions throughout our region. It can also hamper MTA Metro-North Railroad's ability to provide you with regular service. We present the following information because we want you to understand and be prepared for any service changes we make based on winter weather conditions.

How We Prepare

We routinely review our performance after major service disruptions, and we will be applying some of the lessons we learned from previous record-setting snowstorms. We want to learn from our experiences, and build on what we have learned. We have made adjustments in the following key areas:

Finally, snow-fighting crews are dispatched to all stations and crews are positioned at numerous locations ready to clear platforms and stairways.

Winter Travel GuideWe also conduct regular safety drills that focus on the importance of these areas and give railroad employees and regional first responders hands-on emergency experience.

Determining What Service to Provide

It can be very difficult to predict the severity of a storm 24-48 hours before it hits. But that is how far in advance we start planning changes to your service in response to a severe winter storm.

In anticipation of any storm, we must not only determine appropriate levels of staffing, but we must also begin to take precautions with both our trains and with our infrastructure. If the storm is predicted to be severe, we must consider what an appropriate level of service would be. We try to anticipate customer demand and the impact of the weather on our fleet. We have to decide whether to reduce service, and when to put those service reductions into effect. If we reduce service, we try to base it on the regular weekday or weekend schedule.

While decisions on service are made in advance, please be aware that during a storm, we may need to make further changes to our schedule depending on the condition of our infrastructure and power systems, the number of train cars available, and the location of our crews. While we strive to communicate these changes to you as quickly as possible, it is not always easy given rapidly changing weather conditions.

Service Options

Service options we may enact during a storm include:

Challenges We Face

Accurately forecasting and planning for the impact of winter storms presents unusual challenges for Metro-North. Because our service spans 2,700 square miles over seven counties in New York and two in Connecticut, our territory is subject to varied amounts of snow during a storm. Two inches may fall in Manhattan, and 20 inches in Brewster or New Haven. This can complicate how we determine the best service to run.
Further complicating our efforts is the often short lead times the ever-changing conditions of winter storms present us in making adjustments to service plans and getting the word on those changes out to you--our customers.

Also, road conditions during a snowstorm do not only affect how you get to our stations. They also hamper our crews from getting to their work locations, and that has an impact on our ability to deliver service.

Winter Travel GuideFinally, the weather's impact on our service is not just determined by the amount of snow that falls, but also by the age of our equipment and of our infrastructure. This is especially evident on the New Haven Line, where 100-year-old catenary and moveable bridges, and signal and power systems are all highly susceptible to the effects of the weather. The line can become adversely impacted by a severe storm.

Routinely, snow and sub-freezing temperatures can affect our "cars" much like they affect your cars. Moisture from ice and snow can freeze in brake lines, air compressors and door mechanisms, causing them to malfunction. On our older M3 equipment, snow and moisture can get into traction motors, which can turn the train car's wheels, causing them to short out. (The design of our M7 & M8 cars places critical components inside, making them less susceptible to the effects of moisture.)

Unlike one of your cars, when one of our rail cars is out of service, it affects you and 100 or so of your fellow commuters. And while we work to get our train cars back "on the road" as soon as possible, your train may have fewer cars — and therefore, fewer seats — creating more crowded conditions than usual.
Extreme cold and drifting snow also affect the reliability switches and signals, which can delay your train.

Be Prepared - Know Before You Go:

We strongly encourage you to:

Winter Safety Tips

Remember: In severe winter weather, our goal is to provide you with the best and safest service available, and to return to regularly scheduled service as soon as possible.

Title photo by Emily Moser