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Who's Got The Hottest Metro Station

The station I get the most heat complaints about is Metro Center. In Monday's comments in Summer of Discontent on Metro, it popped up again.

HistoryAnn wrote: "One factor in my decision to drive to work is the temperature at Metro Center. Whether I'm commuting to Archives or Virginia Square I need to change trains at Metro Center (unless I walk the greater distance to Judiciary Square to catch the red line). For health reasons, I can't take the heat."

So Monday afternoon, as the temperature rose to 94 degrees outside, I carried a digital air thermometer into some of the underground stations and took some readings. Look for the full results of this informal survey on the Sunday, Aug. 16, Commuter page in The Post, but here's what I found Monday in spot checking stations, mostly on the Red and Green, and Yellow lines and at the transfer stations.

-- There was a range of 10 degrees among the stations. I went after stations that I thought would show different characteristics: older stations, newer stations, transfer stations, deep down stations and transition stations, where the next stop is above ground.

-- The coolest was deep underground at the relatively young Forest Glen Station, where I got a reading of 79 degrees on the platform at 6:23 p.m. (I got there by taking the Red Line up from outdoor Fort Totten, where the reading was 95.4 degrees at 5:57 p.m.
-- Topping the chart on my survey was Union Station, where the tunnel ends as the Red Line rises toward the outdoors. On the side of the platform nearest the end of the tunnel, the thermometer recorded 89.6 degrees at 2:33 p.m. When I walked to the other end of the platform, where the tunnel heads downtown, the reading dropped slightly to 88.5 degrees.
-- I spent a lot of time at Metro Center, since it's been the source of so many complaints. The maximum reading of 84.4 degrees was on the Red Line platform at 3 p.m. But I got that while standing away from the big fans and Port-A-Cool portable air conditioners. When I stood in front of the air conditioner, the temp was 82.6. I found another spot on the platform, where I could feel cool air coming from vents in the escalator bank. The temp there also was 82.6. Down below, on the Blue/Orange Line platform, I got a reading of 81.3 degrees.
-- All other temperatures were somewhere in the 80s. Farragut North registered 87 degrees at 3:27 p.m. Medical Center was 85 degrees at 3:55 p.m. Navy Yard was 83.8 at 4:37 p.m. L'Enfant Plaza was 85.8 on the Green/Yellow Line platform at 4:50 p.m. and 86.7 degrees on the Blue/Orange platform below a few minutes later.

This afternoon, I plan to visit more stations on the Blue, Yellow and Orange lines. What do you think of the results so far?

By Robert Thomson  |  August 11, 2009; 8:29 AM ET
Categories:  Metro  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Metrorail, hot stations  
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Man, you really took one for the team yesterday, Dr. Gridlock, traveling on Metro in that heat with your thermometer. Great job, and I hope your boss paid for a few cool ones after all that (as well as your dry-cleaning).

Posted by: WashingtonDame | August 11, 2009 8:35 AM | Report abuse

Dr G. try visiting them during rush hour when the platforms are packed with people. I bet most of the people who are complaining of the heat are stuck in Metro Center at 5:30 when the platforms are 3-4 deep. The Red line platforms are much better now thanks to the fans/AC units. The Blue/Orange line platforms can be really stuffy when its crowded down there.

I get on at Union Station and am not surprised to hear that its hot - it also can be really stuffy - especially when there are big delays until the next train!

Posted by: archers44 | August 11, 2009 9:07 AM | Report abuse

The fans and A/C units on the Red Line platform at Metro Center have only appeared in the last week or so, but they're a definite help. I had serious trouble with the Metro Center Red Line platform back in June and July but this week it's been the least problematic thing about my Red Line commute.

Posted by: EtoilePB | August 11, 2009 9:15 AM | Report abuse

I knew it! Union Station is just miserable, especially when the platform is crowded. At other stations, I can usually find a bit of a breeze or a cool spot near one of the columns, but never at Union Station. Then we all pile onto a hot train that just came from outside, and the A/C can't keep up.

Posted by: Janine1 | August 11, 2009 9:54 AM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: WashingtonDame, at least I have the good sense to go round in a polo shirt and tropical weight pants when visiting Metro stations during a DC summer. People here seem to know how to dress down on a snow day. They wear jeans, boots and sweaters. But they seem less likely to relax the dress code on a super-heat day.

archers44, I think I will be able to get back to Metro Center around 5:30 today while touring the Blue and Orange lines. My strategy on all this is to be out in the afternoon -- the real stress test, going from station to station and measuring with the same thermometer. I wait between five and 10 minutes at each site, to make sure the reading has stabilized. (An incoming train will make it fluctuate slightly. Trains seem to push in warmer or cooler air, depending on the station. And when the doors open, they release a burst of cooler air -- usually.)

Posted by: rtthomson1 | August 11, 2009 10:07 AM | Report abuse

I wonder if the point archers44 makes about the upper and lower platforms at Metro Center is affected by the designs of the two platforms. That is--hot air rises, and the upper (Red Line) platform has the higher arched ceiling overhead, whereas the lower (Orange/Blue Line) platform has a flat, low ceiling because the upper level is overhead. Thus the air doesn't rise as much. If this theory works, it would also apply at L'Enfant Plaza (but not at Gallery Place due to the different design of that station).

Union Station being hotter makes sense to me because it's close to the transition to elevated track. I wonder if the same is true at other stations like that (Crystal City, Stadium-Armory, and Ballston are the three that come to mind, although none is quite as close to the mouth of the tunnels as Union Station is).

Posted by: 1995hoo | August 11, 2009 10:26 AM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: 1995hoo, that point you're making about the transition stations is one of the things I want to test. I have a feeling it's going to turn out that none of the transition stations on the Orange and Blue lines will be signifcantly hotter than the others. It's the point you were making: I think there's no station as close to the mouth of the tunnel as Union Station. There' you can feel the blast of heat as a Red Line train comes in from above ground.

Posted by: rtthomson1 | August 11, 2009 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Woodley Park station is usually pretty decent, which makes sense since it is far underground.

Metro commuters...some of you don't realize just how good you have it. Air conditioning might be weak at Metro Center, but at least there is air conditioning. In New York, the stations aren't air conditioned (except for the Lexington Avenue 4/5/6 platform at Grand Central), and when it's 95 outside, it will probably top 100 inside the stations. Bear in mind that prior to the mid to late 1980's, there were still quite a few un-airconditioned trains running in NYC, so the trains were even worse.

Posted by: thetan | August 11, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Metro Center has actually got a lot better in the past month or so. I'm not sure if it's the fans they have spread out all over the place (they help - and they felt nice after I spent Sunday afternoon at the soccer game), or if the AC is working better, but in late May and early June it was unbearable.

It does seem to be closer to normal in there.

Posted by: edwardaggie98 | August 11, 2009 10:49 AM | Report abuse

It's the Metro Station that is built closer to hell that's the hottest, right?

Posted by: ImWithStupid | August 11, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

"It's the Metro Station that is built closer to hell that's the hottest, right?"

We'll find out today. Dr G's testing the Orange and Blue lines, home of the Capitol South, McPherson Square and Farragut West stops.

Posted by: cprferry | August 11, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Ballston gets pretty hot too. This morning I was sweating while waiting 8 minutes between trains.

Posted by: fedssocr | August 11, 2009 4:19 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad to hear that they have installed some fans/AC units in Metro Center. This means that I should be more comfortable when I use it in the future.
In the past, the heat there did not seem to vary according to the temperature outside; it was still too warm in the cooler seasons like when I would take the the Rail because of wintry weather.
I do not use Union Station, Navy Yard, or Medical Center and it has been years since I've had a reason to use L'Enfant Plaza.

Posted by: HistoryAnn | August 11, 2009 4:49 PM | Report abuse

The hottest station this week has to be East Falls Church. You below-ground station dwellers have it so easy!

Posted by: varider1 | August 12, 2009 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Ballston is the hottest I have encountered. There do not appear to be any fans or a/c units in the station and it is often unbearable down on the platform in the morning (especially when you're waiting 13 minutes for a train, as I was this morning).

Posted by: lgp2 | August 12, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

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