A Giant Vacuum Cleaner for New York Subways—Finally!

September 9, 2017

You might have a few supplies at home to clean the floors—a broom, a mop, a dustpan, a vacuum cleaner, and maybe even a robotic vacuum cleaner that quietly hums around and does its job.

If you were an attendant at a New York subway station, you’d use shovels and brooms to clean the sides of the train tracks (that’s 236 miles of track!). It’s definitely not an easy job, but it is a necessary one. Why? Trash on subway tracks not only makes the place look dirty, it’s also a fire hazard. The sparks that fly from the trains can light up paper trash and cause the train lines to shut down. In fact, last year alone, there were 638 fires on the tracks due to trash.

While the subway system has rolling cars that clean under the tracks, the sides of the tracks still need the good old broom and dustpan. This might have been fine decades ago, but today there are thousands of pieces of trash that land on the tracks daily.

So what’s the solution? Well, since January, New York subways have been testing giant, battery-powered vacuum cleaners on the subway tracks.

By Daniel Schwen (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
So far, these vacuum cleaners have sucked 1.7 million pounds of garbage from two train lines alone! This is great news for the transit authority, which noticed that fires have decreased since these vacuums debuted. The workers who use the vacuums believe they are the best thing the transit authority has done but think it would be better if the public learned to respect the tracks and not litter in the first place.

We agree!

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