We’ve all seen the garbage that piles up on New York’s subway tracks — or mysteriously floats down them on occasion. It’s gross and a nuisance that doesn’t help alleviate commuting problems like train delays and track fires.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is trying to combat both the garbage and service issue problem with a multiphase program called Operation Track Sweep. 

The agency unveiled Phase III of the program on Thursday, and it has the MTA testing out two powerful mobile vacuum systems that can easily be moved from station to station and operated from platforms. 

“Testing these new technologies is a key part in our plan to get the tracks cleaner, and keep them cleaner over the long haul,” MTA New York City Transit President Veronique Hakim said. “Once we’re sure that these units are effective, we’ll be ordering additional units to deploy across the system.”

The first vacuum has already been deployed, and the second will be operational within the next two weeks. The battery-operated units will be tested for 30 to 45 days. 

The vacuums will be used on two areas of track: 

• 15 stations in Manhattan, from Lexington Avenue/53rd Street (E/M lines) on the Queens Boulevard E/F line to West 4th Street/Washington Square (A/B/C/D/E/F/M) on the Sixth Avenue and Eighth Avenue lines. 

• 20 stations in Queens, from Jamaica-179th Street (F) to Queens Plaza (E/M/R). 

A track-cleaning primer


Start: June 2016
Focus: Created a more-aggressive track-cleaning schedule that jumped from 34 tracks every two weeks to 94. 
Start: Sept. 2016
Focus: 500 workers removed trash and debris from all 469 stations in the MTA system over the course of two weeks.
Start: Jan. 2017
Focus: Test two portable vacuum prototypes in two corridors of track in Queens and Manhattan. 
Start: 2017-2018
Focus: Introduce three track vacuum trains, the first of which will be put into effect sometime in 2017, with the second and third arriving in 2018. 
Additionally, the MTA will purchase 27 new refuse cars which have special railings to accommodate wheeled waste receptacles collected from stations.