(Photo by Arin Sang-urai/Improv Everywhere)
For MTA-dependent New Yorkers, the simple act of waiting for a subway can feel like a daily exercise in purgatorial suffering. The lucky few do eventually escape this underworld, soul intact, on a functional, A.C.-compliant, bloodless train car. But during a mid-summer heat wave, at a time when rush hour breakdowns are basically the norm, the prospect of eternal damnation now seems more likely than ever.
Of course, not all infernos are created equally. Some platforms are home to literal demons or green goop outbreaks or improv troupes. And unlike some other cities, none of our stations are remotely air conditioned. (We’ve asked the MTA in the past about cooling the platforms and were told, basically, “no.”)
On Friday, the Regional Plan Association released their report on the hottest subway platforms, based on measurements taken at the ten busiest stations. Their “winner” was the downtown 4/5/6 platform at Union Square, which registered at a psychotic (and dangerous!) 104 degrees.
That was at 1 p.m. on Thursday, when the above ground temperature was 86 degrees. Two other stations—Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall and 59th Street-Columbus—also cracked the triple digit mark, coming in at 102 and 101, respectively.
Back in 2015, WNYC did their own survey of 103 stations, and found that the Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall 4/5/6 platform was a whopping 106.6 degrees. That station, like the similarly oppressive World Trade Center stop, is a turnaround spot for trains, which allows exhaust to build up as the trains wait for long periods of time.
NY1 did their own quest this week as well, and clocked both the Brooklyn Bridge stop and 14th Street/8th Avenue stop at 105 degrees. Their scorch-leader was the World Trade Center, where they encountered “a Death Valley-like 106.5 degrees.”
Why go to hot yoga or sit in a steam room when you can stand in a subway car with no AC instead? I love summer in NY!!! 🙃
— lex (@verseau93) August 7, 2018
To address these unbearable conditions, the RPA has recommended some solutions, which include: opening up the stations to improve light and air circulation; reducing heat through a new braking system; and turning down air conditioning in cars, which add heat to the system. (We’ve reached out to the MTA to see if they’ll consider implementing these recommendations, and we’ll update if we hear back.)
Noting that the average temperature in New York has gone up by 3.4 degrees since 1900, the RPA’s report concludes, “If we don’t tackle the issue of heat in the subway, the public health impacts will continue to worsen as our planet and our city warms.”