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Climate change will make the subway 'dangerously hot'

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Flooding isn't the only threat to New York's trains

Spencer Platt

Summer already turns New York’s subway platforms into fetid saunas. Climate change may make them dangerous. A draft report from a panel convened by Governor Andrew Cuomo, obtained by Capital New York, warns that climate change could make stations "dangerously hot for riders." This is in addition to the more obvious threat of flooding that climate change poses.

"dangerously hot"

Heat from the trains, their brakes, and the air conditioners used to cool the cars combine to make platforms far hotter than the temperature above ground. "Just because the way the station is designed. It's a steamer," Richard Barone, the transportation director at New York’s Regional Plan Association, tells Capital. The problem can’t be solved by putting air conditioners on the platform — cool air just gets pushed into the tunnels by incoming trains and drifts out through the grates in the ceiling. London is facing a similar problem with its transit system, where temperatures already climb over 110 degrees and signs warn riders to bring water.

Barone says that that lighter trains might help. They would require less energy to run and brake, so they’d produce less heat. Another possible solution involves installing glass barriers between the cars and the platform so that heat can’t escape into the tunnels, an upgrade previously considered as a means of keeping people from falling onto the tracks.