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The Search For Hottest Metro Stations, Day 2

I thought it would be impossible to dislodge Union Station from its top spot on the Hot List. After all, Union Station has a heat pump. Stand on the side where the Red Line trains come in from above ground, and you can feel the blast of warm air ahead of them.

On Monday afternoon, my digital thermometer read 89.6 degrees there at 2:33 p.m. Metro Center, the most complained about station of the summer, could muster only an 84.4 at 3 p.m. (The transit authority has been working on Metro Center.)

Early Tuesday afternoon, when I began to really focus on the Orange and Blue lines, the outdoor temperature was a couple of degrees cooler. Or rather, less hot. So I wasn't expecting to top Monday's Union Station reading.

Indeed, at Stadium-Armory -- which is something of a transition station to the outside, though not as dramatic as Union Station -- the platform temperature was a mere 86.4 at 2 p.m.

Capitol South probably has less hot air with Congress in recess, but I took a reading anyway: 85.6 at 2:10 p.m. I had high hopes for the busy L'Enfant Plaza, but it made it only to 85.8 on the Blue-Orange platform at 2:20 p.m. (The Green-Yellow platform upstairs was a tad warmer at 86.2 a few minutes later.)

Checking again on Metro Center, I got a reading of 83.1 on the Blue-Orange platform at 2:44 p.m., while the Red Line level measured 82.9 a few minutes later.

Then the stunner: I held the Gridometer out at McPherson Square and waited for the digital reader to stabilize. But it took a while. And a while longer. Finally, it held at a steady 90 degrees at 3 p.m.

I think of McPherson Square as a pretty typical underground station. It's not a transfer point, or a transition point to the above ground system. I don't recall hearing a lot of complaints about it this summer.

I had to go up and measure the outside air: 90.1 degrees near the station entrance on Vermont Avenue at 3:06 p.m. (And there was a decent breeze out there, so it felt much better than down on the platform.)

Later in the afternoon, one other station tied that record, but I'm curious to see which station riders would guess hit that mark. These are the other stations I visited Tuesday afternoon: Farragut West, Ballston, Pentagon City and Pentagon, then one last check at Metro Center at 5:23 p.m.

By Robert Thomson  |  August 12, 2009; 9:28 AM ET
Categories:  Metro  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Metrorail, hot stations  
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I got to Metro Center around 6:20 last night and when I finally got to the Blue-Orange platform it was actually cool. My friend and I actually commented on the cool breeze we felt down there and we couldn't figure out where it was coming from - we weren't standing anywhere near a cooling pole. We were at the front of the platform (in the direction of Vienna). Maybe it was coming from the tunnel? Who knows but it was really nice!

Posted by: archers44 | August 12, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Of the other stations you visited, I think Pentagon City is the hottest. If I'm waiting for a Yellow and a Blue comes first, I take that up to Pentagon because it seems cooler there.

Posted by: pentagoncity1 | August 12, 2009 10:47 AM | Report abuse

I suggest you check out Court House. It always seems hot down on the platform. And, whatever happened to the A/C that used to run inside the stations? Did Metro turn it off to save money?

Posted by: stodge | August 12, 2009 10:52 AM | Report abuse

I actually think Metro center has been cooler this summer than it has been in years. Even during the heat wave. The fans are superior to the air conditioning system (Whether it is operational or not). If they are cheaper than repairing/maintaining/operating the air con, they should just switch to fans.

Posted by: cliffmerrell | August 12, 2009 10:55 AM | Report abuse

This matches what I've seen this past week since it got really hot, which is that Court House and Clarendon, of all the silly places, are nearly unbearable, but that Metro Center has been brought well in line.

Posted by: EtoilePB | August 12, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Gallery Place-Chinatown! No question. The Red Line platform there is always miserably hot, humid and stuffy.

Posted by: snowdendantan | August 12, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Try the Crystal City station in the AM.

Posted by: a_l_delgado | August 12, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse

This morning when I went down to Clarendon's platform I could barely breathe because of the still, hot, humid air. If I didn't know better, I would have thought that I was descending into the depths of Hades, as it got hotter as I went from ground to mezzanine to platform. But of your list above - I'd guess Farragut West, just for the sheer volume of people (and body heat) that pass through during rush hour.

Posted by: sciencegrrl | August 12, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

McPherson Sqaure is like a blast furnace in the afternoon lately. It is definitely the hottest station I have experience in my 9 years or Metro riding

Posted by: markfd | August 12, 2009 11:45 AM | Report abuse

I think Foggy Bottom is pretty bad too. Plus the trains in the afternoon haven't had AC in some of the cars either. Brutal!!

Posted by: nolagirl67 | August 12, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

I agree, something has happened with Courthouse lately. It's been getting hotter and hotter. This morning at 5:30am I was sweating.

My commute is Courthouse to Union Station but for some reason I don't really notice the heat at Union Station.

As for which other station was the hottest, it has to be Pentagon City. Unless they fixed it in the past year, that place was brutal.

Posted by: adbspam | August 12, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

My guess for hot station from the remaining ones would be my home station of Ballston.

The last/first underground station on the orange line in Virginia, fairly close to the surface, and I'd imagine that the hot air the trains push in is pretty hot, as the tracks straddle 66 when above ground.

Posted by: JackTrade | August 12, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

I went down into Ballston last night about 6:30 p.m. I had to wait 11 minutes for an orange line to East Falls Church. There was an announcement that due to a blue line problem that had been resolved, trains were delayed.

It was stifling inside the station. What a long 11 minutes. With only one train passing through (the opposite direction) during that 11 minutes, there was no train to generate even a short breeze. Bummer.

Posted by: swissmiss150 | August 12, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

My guess is definitely Pentagon City. Even when the outside temperature is comfortable, that station is always at least 15-20 degrees higher.

Posted by: ls00221 | August 12, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

I have to agree, Foggy Bottom's platform is pretty bad. I saw a man who had fainted from the heat last week next to the esculator that leaves the platform. Ballston is bad also. I see the large fans positioned to blowing air outside and on the station mang.workstation, but none on the platform where the heat is. Why don't they put the large fans down on the platforms where the trains and people are, and give the station mang. small fans inside the booths? Why arent any of the a/c working? You would think that air comfort would be part of safety with in the Metro Rail System? I'm surprise we don't see more incidents of fainting or upchucking going on. And yes... to have to stand in that heat, then jump on a train without a/c, that's enough to make you want to start driving your own vehicle. I watch as the train pulls in to see if anyone are waving or fanning trying to keep cool. I avoid that car and run to the next. Please Metro...fix this. Let us know that the extra monies trickling in are going towards air conditioner's or fan's if thats the case. Just as long as we have air.
After standing on the hot platform at Ballston for 16 min's around 10pm last night, I was so happy to get on a cool train. The problem was that a panel had come undone near the special seating, and was flinging back and forth with the train motion. No one could sit in that seat or stand near that doorway. The funny thing, no one wanted to say anything to the conductor, because we did not want the train to be put out of service for repair. We wanted to get home and out of the heat. So we just watched the door panel swing back and forth, banging against the rail guard by the door. Lucky no one was injured by this, but to think that we would put ourselves in danger to say cool rather than stand on the hot platform, its a little crazy. I did report it to the station manager at Foggy Bottom when I departed the train.

Posted by: jmyrick1 | August 12, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Boy I guess my mind is not where it should be - When I read 'What's The Hottest Metro Station' I thought to myself "How can a Metro Station be sexy?"

I know each station looks slightly different but would it be L'Enfant with the high cross-barrel ceiling or Dupont with that long escalator going up into that circle of light?

I guess I should get my mind off the train tracks!

Posted by: dre7861 | August 12, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Normally from Dr. Gridlock's list in the final paragraph I would surmise that Ballston was the hottest because it's closest to the transition to ground-level track. But based on his comment about the heat at McPherson Square, I'm inclined to guess that Farragut West was the hottest because of the crowds there and because it's so close to McPherson (you can see the other stop down the tunnel from either one), meaning that the trains help suck hot air between the two stations.

I wouldn't think Pentagon would be especially hot because of the much higher ceiling and because it's reasonably close to TWO tunnel exits, meaning that while there is more chance for hot air to get sucked in, there's also another means for it to escape. (Come to think of it, I suppose Ballston has only one exit to the street, whereas Farragut West has two, but I'm not sure to what degree that might make a difference. Pun intended.)

Posted by: 1995hoo | August 12, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

I would bet that the Pentagon City station was the hottest of those additional stations you tested. That place is the worst (and always smells)! Although, the upstairs of the Pentagon station is no better.

Posted by: JennEDC | August 12, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Last year I would have guessed Farragut West, but it's been somewhat tolerable this year. For COOL stations, check out Tenleytown, which makes sense since it is so deep.

Posted by: DCLiz | August 12, 2009 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Ballston is very hot, and has been for several years. There is never any air coming through the vents at that station. I go to Virginia Square a lot now to avoid the heat on the Ballston platform. Virginia Square is noticeably cooler.

Posted by: ratyc | August 12, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse

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