It’s official: We’ve reached the point in the summer where it’s often more hot and disgusting in below-ground subway stations than it is outside. (We can’t say exactly when that point happens, but it’s usually sometime in mid-July, when all of the humidity and heat from outside combines with the hot air belched from moving trains into one fetid, soupy mess.)
This week has felt particularly terrible, thanks to the one-two punch of a heat wave that sent temperatures soaring into the 90s for most of the week, as well as day after day of subway disruptions—many of which stranded riders on disgusting, swampy platforms.
If you’ve been one of those stranded riders, you might be wondering: Exactly how hot and disgusting are the platforms lately? The Regional Plan Association aimed to answer that question this week by heading to the 10 busiest subway stations—stops like 14th Street-Union Square, Times Square-42nd Street, and 34th Street-Herald Square—to see how the temperatures underground compared to those outside.
The conclusion: It’s bad. Really, really bad.
The RPA found that the hottest spot to wait for a train was the 4/5/6 platform at the Union Square stop; at 1 p.m. yesterday, it registered at a whopping 104 degrees, compared to 86 degrees outside. A few other stations, including the 1 platform at 59th Street-Columbus Circle, and the 4/5/6 at Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall, also cracked 100 degrees. Many more registered temperatures in the high 90s.
For reference, the city issues a heat advisory when “the heat index is expected to reach 95°F to 99°F for two or more consecutive days, or 100°F to 104°F for any length of time,” according to NYC Emergency Management—so excessively hot subway stations aren’t just a nuisance, they’re also a public health problem.
The RPA has recommended that the MTA tackle the heat problem underground through a number of measures—such as making trains more energy-efficient, or opening up stations so that more air circulates—though we wouldn’t hang our hopes on those things happening anytime soon.
“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,” the RPA report warns. In the meantime, it’s probably a good idea to keep a fan and some water on you at all times.