Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Out of Service Hot Cars Make Us Steam

From "Fed Up, Can’t Kick Metro":
Standing on the platform at McPherson, so as to get on the first car of a Blue Line train toward PG, a New Carrollton train pulls up with an empty first car.

As soon as I get my earbuds out to listen to what the operator has to say, I hear something like, “blah blah blah, they said someone slashed up some seats or something.”

I was still pondering the amazing decision to sequester the most dangerous of dangers—“slashed up seats,” when an Addison Road train pulled up.

Guess what?

The first car was out of service.

The conversation with the operator went something like this:

Me: Hey, so what’s going on? This is the second train in a row with a shut-down car?

Her: OK, see this car isn’t closed.

Me: So let me on.

Her: It’s too hot in there.

Me: It’s hot out here, it’s hot outside. It’s weather, it’s hot.

Her: The AC’s broke.

Me: The AC’s broke out here.

Her: OK, you need to talk to someone else, because I can’t— [at this point, fearing a lame excuse, ‘it’s not my fault’ ‘I can’t do anything’ etc., I interrupt her for a second time]

Me: You know, it’s refreshing to see that fare hikes past and future are going to keep your outstanding service at an elite level.

At this point I walked toward the second car fully expecting the operator to close the doors before I got there. To her credit, she didn’t. But, once I got on the second car, guess what?

No AC!

But anyway, how often are AC’s broken in the cars? Plenty, right?

Can’t people, I don’t know, make up their own minds about their comfort and move if they have to?

Closing down cars during rush hour seems to be against Metro’s mission to move the most people the efficient way possible.

However, it is in line with Metro’s mission of continued woeful service and increasing expenses.

The other day, Unsuck had the pleasure of riding in a hot car, but there was a twist. An acrid burning smell engulfed the car at every station. Fearing dehydration and asphyxiation, we gave up a prime spot and switched cars at Foggy Bottom. At Smithsonian, a Metro worker came into the hot car and told everyone to get out.

According to Metro, as cited on the DC Paratransit Info blog,"on a hot, humid day, approximately 4% of our 1106 cars experience HVAC problems."

That seems kind of low, but what gets us even more hot under the collar is thinking about how Metro has failed to evolve over it's near 40-year life.

We know why Metro put AC in the cars, but was any thought ever given to a backup plan that wouldn't involve taking scarce, crowded cars out of service?

Most other subway systems we've ridden, including in Japan, where it gets very hot, usually have small windows that can be opened, which at least creates a breeze and makes the heat bearable if the AC goes down.

Why was this never thought of and implemented here? Is this something that will be added to the 7000-series cars? Doesn't look like it. It can't be a liability issue, as both Chicago and New York subways have windows that can be opened.

How many times in the past month have you been dealt a hot car?

For readers on Twitter, if you find yourself in a hot car, tweet the car number along with "#hotcar @metroopensdoors"


Anonymous said...

I had one on the red line last week. The car was also extremely crowded, making things that much worse. I didn't realize how sweaty I was until I got off at my stop and the stale Metro station air felt like a fresh ocean breeze.

Any news on the red line issues this morning? It was a disaster when I was there.

Anonymous said...

Guarantee, if there were little windows to be opened next to the seats, someone would try to get away with smoking on a train.

Anonymous said...

Yesterday, Blue Line Metro Center toward Largo.

The only thing worse than a hot car is a hot Carl (not that there's anything wrong with that).

arhutch said...

I sympathize with the feeling that poor service doesn't merit increased fares. But I think the writer's comments as such to the driver were probably pointless. If you can't envision a beneficial outcome of saying something like that, then I wouldn't bother. I mean, what's the operator going to do? Effect change at the management level?

But that's just my two cents.

On the issue of people moving to where they're most comfortable and not shutting down cars that some may consider bearable, I would only point to our national pastime: Litigation. Some poor sap is going to get in an un-air-conditioned car and despite being uncomfortable, not move to another one. S/he will later collapse or develop some other health problem and point to the climate in the car. And then, guess what? Lawsuit, that's what.

So as much as I agree that we all ought to be able to make up our minds to do what we want (including move out of a hot car if necessary) that logic has unfortunately been abandoned in the age of trolling for liability claims.

Christina said...

I was in a hot car yesterday on the blue line. A tourist hit the emergency button while we were stopped at Rosslyn to complain. By the time I got off at the Pentagon, he still hadn't responded.

Anonymous said...

The sheep can't be trusted to choose hot cars in hot stations. Someone will faint or vomit and end up fracking up the rest of the day's commute.

Meredith said...

This morning two of the cars on the six-car train I got on in Vienna did not have air conditioning. I rode in one anyway bc I just didn't care enough to fight it.

Anonymous said...

Every time I ride a metro train in the afternoon it is hot. It does not seem to matter the line or the position of the car, it is hot.

I've only noticed the lack of ac or strong enough ac this summer and last. I guess global warming is moving too fast for metro to keep up.

Anonymous said...

Twice. So bad I had to get out.

Anonymous said...

And if Metro did get cars with windows that opened, how long do you think they'd be operational? On the buses you can count on most, if not all, the windows being jammed closed; and some people won't open the windows or allow anyone else to.

And, if you haven't noticed, on a lot of the buses with AC that actually works, the driver will turn off the AC. Do they get a bonus or some sort of incentive if they save gas by not running the AC? or is it for the entertainment of watching passengers swelter?

Anonymous said...

I got on a car w/o ac and it was stifling esp. since it was during rush hour. I had to get off and try to switch cars. I've given up the metro for now until the weather makes it impossible for me to bike or walk anywhere.

Anonymous said...

The only thing worse is what I dealt with yesterday, on an Orange line training: The heat must have been on in the car I stepped into. The rest of the train was crowded, while 2 brave souls opted to tough out the 90+ heat in the car that was pumping out even warmer air.

Anonymous said...

Metro can't have cars with windows that open... the LCD (Lowest Common Denominator) would stick their hand out the open window and have it taken off and Metro would have to pay more in lawsuits. It's a catch-22. How about we just have equipment that WORKS!?

Dancing Yeti said...

I swear the heat was on in a Red Line car I ended up in last week. So, naturally, someone decided that the best course of action would be to let out a face-melting, silent-but-deadly fart. Between the methane and the brake-dust stank, I nearly passed out from lack of oxygen.

A.Smith said...

@Anon 9:18am

A co worker was at Dupont this morning (Dupont, southbound) and he said a super crowded train pulled into a super crowded station (of course). People tried to squeeze on and of course, eventually the train just went out of service and offloaded. They cited mechanical issues, but we all know they just wanted everyone off.

Anyway, as I mentioned, the station was already crowded (coworker says up to the escalator) when that train pulled in. Offloading took some time (and an official walking through the train clearing people off) and that caused back ups all the way down the red line.

He said trains were coming in rapid succession once the offloaded train finally left out, and that they all had to inch into the station because people were literally on the edge of the platform.

Anonymous said...

Metro should have evolved from pleather seats and carpeting a LONG time ago.

Chris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

There was no AC in at least two trains (in all cars as I found out from people moving from car to car to find one with AC) on Saturday coming from Shady Grove. I got on the first train and a friend got on a later train and she said there was no AC in her train either.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for ya'll but I took the bus the past two weeks and the AC was on! I was feeling cool in the humid weather.

Yes, it took me an hour and half to get home but better than rail.

DC ParaTransit Info said...

We got more info from WMATA this morning trying to explain why it felt like there was no a/c when (apparently) there is a/c: http://bit.ly/bUNTZa

Personally we think they're lame excuses, just plausible enough to be able to toss them out in front of the Board if this ever gets raised.

But it'd take someone who knows the mechanics of the system to point it out for certain.

Anonymous said...

I lived in London for 6 months and find myself woefully comparing its phenomenal tube to the suckalicious DC metro pretty much daily. London's underground is not and never has been air conditioned. And, with an average depth of 80 feet, the tunnels are terribly vented. This means that, although the weather does not reach DC levels of balmy, it definitely gets really hot in the tube. The key - windows. They have all the windows open. Pretty much all the time. Yes, you end up coated in black ash. But it is manageable. And you are generally to work on time. With maybe a delay once every other week or so, with over twice as much length and almost 3 times as many passengers per day. I am always astounded at wmata's comparable ineptitude.

Anonymous said...

So train operators cannot change the temperature, what if it gets hot in their little rooms? I think we need Jackie on the case! Bad working conditions for metro employees.

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