The MBTA Assures You, It Won’t Be a Basket Case This Winter

Snowpocalypse, meet Snowzilla.

Snowzilla, the MBTA's jet powered snow removal machine. Photo by Garrett Quinn

Snowzilla, the MBTA’s jet powered snow removal machine. Photo by Garrett Quinn

It may be unseasonably warm for December, but the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority wants a winter-wary public to know it is prepared for the worst Mother Nature can throw at it.

Transportation officials stressed to a group of reporters gathered underground at the MBTA’s Emergency Training Center on Wednesday that there will not be a repeat of the problems that brought the system to its knees this past winter.

Gov. Charlie Baker emphasized that $83 million “winter resilience plan” the MBTA implemented after last winter has drastically improved how the cash-strapped agency functions during inclement weather. The plan is expected to last five years and is being paid primarily with federal funds. Per the MBTA:


Third rail replacements and heater upgrades on vulnerable outdoor sections of the Red and Orange Lines.

Snow fence installation along the Red and Orange Lines to mitigate snow drift accumulation.

Repairs to vehicle maintenance facilities and structures to further maximize recovery efforts.

Emergency power generators to supplement existing subway and facility power as needed.

Track access improvements for larger snow removal and track work equipment on the Red Line.


New and rehabilitated specialized snow removal equipment to increase removal capacity and reduce use of passenger vehicles.

For passenger vehicles, vehicle-borne anti-icing equipment, modifications to air and propulsion system resiliency and an increased stock of traction motors to improve availability.


Additional snow removal contract services, as needed, to remove snow and ice at stations, facilities and other critical operations areas.

Training and staffing of a Field Inspection Team to be deployed during weather events to monitor staff and contractor field
activities clearing snow and returning tracks to an operational status.

Adoption of incident management software in coordination with the MassDOT Highway Division to track deployment of snow removal operations across the system.

Formal establishment of an as needed inmate snow removal assistance program with the Department of Corrections to augment and streamline the services provided this winter.

Further coordination of interagency planning with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, state agencies and local municipalities to identify efficiencies and synergies in snow removal.

Similar resiliency enhancements to the commuter rail network.

Revisions to the MBTA’s severe winter weather operations protocols and customer notification practices to ensure more information, customer safety and the protection of equipment and facilities.

Several new and refurbished pieces of snow removal equipment were lined up outside the MBTA training facility, including the famed jet-powered Snowzilla. New inservice de-icing equipment will allow Red and Orange Line trains to carry passengers while spraying a specialized third rail icing compound on crucial electrical systems so they remain freer of snow and ice.

“I believe we are far better prepared for this winter than last winter. I believe we’ve done a tremendous amount of work to position us to serve the public adequately, when the snow starts to fall,” said Baker.

As part of its plan to improve service reliability this winter, the MBTA is revamping how it communicates with customers. A new “snow desk” modeled after the one used by MassHighway will be operational during snow events in order to issue system wide status reports every two hours in an effort to improve internal and external communication.

Additionally, the MBTA is in the midst of rolling out a $5,000 advertising campaign to inform customers that, yes, winter is coming, and it is probably a good idea to sign up for service alerts on phones.

The beleaguered transportation agency has even a cheeky official slogan for: “Winter happens. But we know you still need to get there.”

“We are confident going into this winter that we are much better prepared as an agency,” said MBTA General Manager Frank DePaola.