Winter Preparedness

Winter Weather’s Here and CTA is Ready

November 2013


Falling snow. Subzero temperatures. Icy roads and sidewalks. Winter weather can be challenging for all Chicagoans—especially commuters.

To ensure our customers get from Point A to Point B safely and comfortably, CTA has developed myriad strategies to address snow, ice and subzero temperatures, all of which can impact bus and rail service.

During severe weather, CTA’s No. 1 goal is to keep service operating as close to schedule as possible for our customers, and to do so safely.

To meet that goal, CTA staff receives extensive training on winter-specific issues and events—training that helps us maintain the highest level of services possible when snow starts to fall and temperatures start to drop. And our equipment is thoroughly tested and prepared to ensure it’s ready for the winter season.


Our efforts

Here’s an overview of CTA efforts to prepare for winter:


Rail service:
  • Switch heaters are turned on, as needed, to keep track switches from freezing.
  • All railcars have sleet scrapers that are lowered to keep the third rail clear.
    Photo: Sleet scrapers for contact rail
  • Snowplow blades are attached on the front of all railcars to remove snow and ice as trains move along.
    Photo: Snowplow blades at train car ends
  • Some railcars are equipped with a mechanism that spreads de-icer fluid onto the power rail. 
    De-icing equipment on a "sleet fighter" train
  • For lines that do not operate 24 hours, sleet trains are dispatched to clear the tracks prior to service.
  • Four diesel-powered snow fighter locomotives can reach every part of the system without having to rely on electric power.
    Photo: Diesel snow remover, highlighting locomotive, snow blower, broom and brushes on equipment.
Bus service:
  • Buses undergo a thorough inspection process to get ready for cold weather operation. This winter prep include checking heaters, engine thermostats and batteries, and making sure windows, roof hatches and doors close securely.
    Photo: Bus providing service through heavy snow
  • Buses are equipped with engine pre-heaters that circulate coolants through bus engines in cold weather so motors can be started up easily and speed the warming of bus interiors. This also reduces emissions and results in fuel cost savings.
Stations and facilities:
  • Overhead heaters at all 120+ outdoor stations inspected, tested and activated
    Photo: Heat lamps at station
  • Salt and sand delivered to bus and rail stations and facilities
  • Track switch heaters tested and serviced to melt snow and ice, which can interfere with switch operations
  • Boilers at CTA bus garages inspected/tested

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