Sometimes heat waves don't quite deliver that overwhelming yearning to melt to your own death on their own, which is where the MTA steps in. Have you entered a non-air conditioned subway car lately? If not, may we direct you to the C line—where we personally have not run into an air-conditioned car all week (we can only imagine what's happening right now on the Franklin Ave. shuttle). We contacted the MTA this morning to find out if they could flip on the cool down switch, and spokesman Kevin Ortiz told us:
We operate R32s on the C line. This car class is the oldest in the system dating back to the early 1960’s. Needless to say, maintaining the air conditioning equipment on these older cars can be a challenge. However, the latest data we have shows that 91 percent of cars on the C line are within guideline temperatures between 58 and 78 degrees. The system-wide figure is 93 percent.
Seeing that we've experienced over-the-top temperatures 100% of the time this week, we headed over to the C at High Street with a thermometer in hand. Here's what our data showed:
- High St Platform: 91 degrees
- Jay St Metrotech Platform: 90 degrees
- (A very rare!) Air Conditioned C Train: 79 degrees
- Fulton St Platform: 90 degrees
- Not Air Conditioned C Train: 92 degrees!!!!
It was 88 degrees outside at the time of our test, so that's about a 4 degree difference than outside, but with the added bonus of no air circulation—meaning this Friday, when it's 100 degrees outside, we can expect at least a 104-degree temperature on the C train, and around 94 degrees on the platforms.
One woman on the C train told us, "It's hot and it's very unacceptable [for the train not to be air conditioned]. I think it's hotter in here than it is outside. I've been on non air conditioned trains before, maybe 3 out of 10 trains don't have air conditioning." Another straphanger told us, "I'm only taking the train because I have to. Platforms should be air conditioned but the city won't do it because there's too much expense." However, Ortiz tells us their official explanation is that while "the system may seem closed, it’s very open—exits, tunnels, vents, grating, etc. So you can’t fully air condition a system that isn’t closed off." (But those stores that leave their doors open do it all the time!)
Will a cooling system ever come to the NYC subway system platforms? We were given a firm "no" when we asked, though were told "there are coolers connected to Grand Central Terminal at the Grand Central Station and an air tempering system at the new South Ferry station. The future stations for Second Avenue and the No 7 extension will also have air tempering systems." Guess those systems must be fully closed with no exits or vents.
Additional reporting by Bethany O'Grady.