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How the CTA prepares for Chicago's winter commute

Written by
Jonathan Samples

As Chicago braces for its first major winter storm of the season, the Chicago Transit Authority says it's hard at work making sure snow, ice and frigid temperatures won’t disrupt service. More than 6 inches of snow are expected to fall across Chicagoland between this afternoon and tomorrow evening, which could wreak havoc on your Monday morning commute.

On Friday, the CTA announced a variety of strategies that the transit service says it will employ throughout the winter season. According to the release, “During severe weather, our No. 1 goal is to keep service operating as close to schedule as possible for our customers, and to do so safely. To that end, we've developed several strategies to address snow, ice and subzero temperatures, all of which can impact service.”

Here’s how CTA plans to keep Chicago’s transit system running smoothly this winter.

One of CTA's four diesel-powered snow fighter locomotives.
Photograph: Courtesy CTA


  • Attached snowplow blades on the front of all CTA railcars remove snow and ice from the track as trains move along.
  • Sleet scrapers on all railcars help keep clear sleet, snow and ice from the third rail ensuring that trains can make proper contact with the electrified rail.
  • Special equipment on some CTA railcars dispenses deicer fluid onto the third rail, which prevents ice from building up on trains’ power source.
  • The CTA turns on track switch heaters to keep switches from freezing.
  • During severe storms, the CTA maintains four diesel-powered snow fighter locomotives that can reach every part of the rail system.
Sleet scrapers
Photograph: Courtesy CTA


  • A thorough inspection of all buses is performed in preparation for cold weather operation. This includes checking heaters, engine thermostats and batteries, as well as making sure doors, windows and roof hatches close securely.
  • Buses are equipped with engine pre-heaters to circulate coolants through bus engines in cold weather allowing motors to start up easily and bus interiors to warm up quickly.
  • The CTA works with the Chicago departments of transportation and streets and sanitation to stay up-to-date on road conditions and make any necessary reroutes.


  • Since November 1, overhead heaters at each of the CTA’s more than 120 outdoor stations have been activated.
  • Bus and rail stations and other CTA facilities receive salt and sand to distribute when needed.

Follow the CTA on Twitter for any service delays and weather-related updates about your commute. 

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