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Metro faces a/c problems on trains

100 degrees on Metrorail | Cooling centers | Riding the rails
Photos: Coping with the heat | Video: Memories of the snow

As temperatures hover around triple digits in the D.C. area, some Metrorail riders are complaining about sweaty commutes on cars with air conditioning problems.

Metro General Manager Richard Sarles says the transit agency is facing challenges with air conditioning on trains.

When rail cars get too hot, Metro closes them off to riders and keeps the train running. Metro does not have exact numbers for how many rail cars have been taken out of service because of air conditioning problems, but Metro Assistant General Manager David Kubicek says less than 10 percent of rail cars are affected.

Board member Jeff McKay, who represents Fairfax County, says he keeps getting trapped on sauna-like rail cars. He has requested a report from Metro staff detailing how many rail cars are affected.

-- Associated Press

Read 100 degrees on Metrorail">what happened when Dr. Gridlock went riding on Metrorail with a thermometer, and share your own experiences by posting a comment below.

By Michael Bolden  | July 8, 2010; 4:27 PM ET
Categories:  Metro  
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One of the problems with Metro and heat is that when a train stop at an above ground station and the doors open there is a immediate influx of hot air. As there are three doors that open at a time there is a lot of hot air comming into the cars. If you look at the distances between stations you can see that the air conditioning system doesn't have enough time to cool the cars before the doors open again.

If you want to experience this try this in your car: with the air conditioning running and the car cool roll down all the windows for 15 seconds every 5 minutes.

Posted by: Jimof1913 | July 8, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

I started riding Metro in 1984. Only in the last few years has the A/C been a constant problem. Before then, you could always feel the cold air blowing, even on a crowded train and even when the train was stopping on ground level or below. The cars were comfortable then; now, they're not -- they're saunas that are dangerous for the elderly, the sick (especially anybody with lung problems) and the young.

It would help Metro in the long run if people stopped making lame excuses for its poor performance or criticize the media for reporting about Metro's problems (like Dave Alpert advocates) and just face the fact that Metro is on a death spiral.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | July 8, 2010 5:30 PM | Report abuse

Last time I was in a "hot car," I did indeed switch at the next station. The next car was *also* a hot car, so I switched at the next station...

I got on the lead car on the first station and was on car #4 by the time I could stop switching. That means at least half the train was unbearable -- and a whole train's worth of passengers can't fit on one half of the train, so the hot cars were pretty full.

I wish the WMATA had a way you could report issues by SMS from a phone, the same way you can Tweet from anywhere. It would help, because then I'd be able to send a report whenever I encountered a problem, instead of having to scramble for a pen so I can write down a train number and time so I can use a website when I get to work 90 minutes later.

Posted by: EtoilePB | July 8, 2010 5:52 PM | Report abuse

I was on a "hot" Orange Line car this morning. So I called 202-637-1328, the complaint number helpfully provided by Dr. G, and went through the "Press 1 for X" menu to get to the extension for an issue with the orange or blue line. And...instead of an operator, I got a recorded message that my comment couldn't be processed at the time. Called again, and got the same message.

It did allow me to leave a recorded message, which I did, listing the number of the train car. And I used the online comment form to list it again, just to try to ensure that it got someone's attention and the car was fixed. But if Metro really wants to fix these cars as quickly as possible--and to make us riders feel vaguely listened to--it would do well to have a comment system that functions, even on a high-volume day.

Posted by: matt731 | July 8, 2010 6:11 PM | Report abuse

i must say i was quite pleased with the A/C on metro Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. I don't often feel compelled to defend Metro, but given the circumstances of 100+ degrees both days, the station and the trains were quite comfortable and i was quite surprised. i've also reached the point of getting the "F" off a train if the A/C is not bearable.

Posted by: oknow1 | July 8, 2010 6:17 PM | Report abuse

I've ridden the Orange line train in VA twice daily this week since the holiday, and I've been on hot cars more often than not. Last week was the same. I realized quickly that I would have to carry office-appropriate clothing with me and change upon arrival, so I could wear little sundresses for the commute. This plus a hand-held, battery-operated fan have let me tough out the hottest cars and the wait afterward for the bus. The buses I catch are always blissfully chilly.

Posted by: --sg | July 8, 2010 9:01 PM | Report abuse

I rode a 100+ degree Orange Line train today at about 6 p.m., boarding it at Court House. This morning no N2 bus stopped on my route on Cathedral Avenue and I had to take a cab to work. It's ALMOST NOT WORTH THE TROUBLE!!

Posted by: DCResident10 | July 8, 2010 11:33 PM | Report abuse

The problem is often that riders cluster around the doorways of the Metro cars, and do not fill the car all the way at the center like they are supposed to, therefore, making the problem of cars with no a/c even worse. The riders in the hot cars understandably dont bother trying to change cars when faced with surly passengers who refuse to make way for them in the cool cars.

Posted by: FCperson | July 11, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

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