Commuters cram inside a hot subway car. AP Photo by Mary Altaffer

Heat Wave Boils Queens Subway Stations

By Raanan Geberer
Queens Daily Eagle

Temperatures inside the subway system’s underground stations have always been hot in the summer, but last week’s heat wave made people take notice.

So too did the sweat-soaked straphangers stranded on the Manhattan-bound L train platform in the Myrtle-Wyckoff station, located in Ridgewood, for nearly 20 minutes because of delays.

Last Thursday, temperature inside the busy Union Square station reached 104 degrees, nearly 20 degrees warmer than the high in Central Park, according to CityLab.

That day, the Regional Plan Association measured temperatures at 16 of the system’s busiest stations as well as several others, and 12 out of the 16 reached 90 degrees or more. Few of the system’s stations are equipped with air conditioning, though this is common in newer city subway systems.

The MTA says it’s not practical to install AC equipment in the subway system’s narrow tunnels.

“Climate control didn’t exist when the subway system was built more than a century ago, and the air conditioning units on trains discharge a lot of heat into tunnels and stations,” a spokesperson told WPIX. “We’re working hard to reduce delays so we can get our customers off the platforms and on their way in an air conditioned car.”

The subway cars themselves are air conditioned, but the MTA has seen a rising number of complaints about cars in which the air conditioning doesn’t work.

The RPA outlined a few solutions to the extreme heat in a recent report entitled “Save Our Subways: A Plan To Transform New York City’s Rapid Transit System.”

Their ideas include designing future subway lines to generate less heat and be more energy efficient, installing regenerative braking to reduce the amount of heat generated by braking trains and opening stations to light and air.

For most people, the extreme heat below ground results in sweat-soaked shirts, but more others, the extreme heat can be a threat to health.

CityLab reporter Laura Bliss said she temporarily lost consciousness after the packed, non-air-conditioned car in which she was riding was stalled in the tunnel for 40 minutes. Thankfully, she came to consciousness within seconds after fellow passengers helped her.

“The subway gets really, really freaking hot. That’s dangerous if you’re a young kid, an elderly person, have a medical intolerance to heat, or are otherwise vulnerable,” Bliss wrote. “Or, um, if you are an able-bodied, youngish person in generally good health who’d just missed breakfast. That was me on Tuesday morning, inside a packed and sweltering M train without any air moving.”

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