Thanks to global warming, descending into the subway is even more like descending into the wrathful bowels of Hades than it used to be. This is problematic for riders and anyone who is forced to work down there, as it's not rare in the summer months for temperatures to reach eyeball-melting levels, the type of heat that causes you to wonder what, really, your skin has done for you lately, and whether you might be cooler if you just stripped it off.
A panel of transit experts convened in May to discuss the MTA's possible future course of action, in the face of what will surely be an increasing number of problems as the Earth continues its plod toward self-immolation. Capital New York acquired a draft report of its findings, which state that in addition to weakening infrastructure, those exposed to the platform blast furnace for a prolonged period are increasingly at risk.
"Extreme temperatures, particularly rising temperatures in the summer months, can stress the M.T.A. system. At higher temperatures, expansion joints on bridges and highways are stressed, and the instance of rail track stresses and track buckling increases. Underground, subway platforms and stations could become dangerously hot for riders," the report says.
Though we'll have to wait for the official report to hear the panel's potential solutions, experts and sweaty straphangers agree that the problem of platform temperature is real.
Richard Barone, the director of transportation programs at the Regional Plan Association, told Capital New York that in addition to climate change, the subway itself is producing more heat than it used to, thanks to developments like in-car air-conditioning. Paradoxically, newer equipment is even more susceptible to heat than the older infrastructure.
"There comes a breaking point for us, as far as people fainting, health problems, people getting sick," Barone said. "At some of our stations, we’re close to that tipping point where it’s unbearable for the customer."
Potential solutions include lighter trains and air-conditioned platforms, neither of which sound like viable options for the famously cash-strapped MTA. Luckily, it's almost fall, so let's resort to our usual M.O. when it comes to addressing climate change: Do something about it later.