Hotter than a New York City Platform


It often feels like subway stations are even hotter than it is outside. Or as news anchor Chris Hayes recently put it  “Today’s subway status: hot garbage.”

RPA’s recent report Save Our Subways: A Plan To Transform New York City’s Rapid Transit System, contains a number of ways that the MTA could leverage more modern technology (like CBCT, which they are already in the process of installing) to cool subway platforms, making them healthier for riders and workers alike.

So how big of a problem are hot subways? On Thursday, August 9, 2018, RPA sent out a strike force of staff and interns to measure the temperature at the top ten busiest subway stations (using MTA’s 2017 rankings) to find out.

August 9, 2018

Above ground high temperature (above ground): 86 degrees

Highest temperature recorded on a platform: 104 degrees (14-Street Union Square Downtown 4/5/6 Platform)

Average temperature recorded on platforms: 94.6 degrees

Temperatures on the Platforms at the Top 10 Busiest Subway Stations

Station Temperature Time Platform
14 St-Union Sq 104 1:00 PM 4/5/6 Downtown
59 St-Columbus Circle 101 10:55 AM 1 Uptown
34 St-Herald Square 99 9:10 AM R/W Downtown
34 St-Penn Station (2/3) 99 8:45 AM 2/3 Express
Times Sq-42 St 98 10:45 AM 1/2/3 Uptown
47-50 Sts-Rockefeller Center 98 9:30 AM BDFM Downtown
14-Street Union Sq 96 1:00 PM 4/5/6 Uptown
Grand Central-42 St 94 1:10 PM 4/5/6 Uptown
34 St-Herald Square 94 9:08 AM N/Q Downtown
34 St-Herald Square 93 8:59 AM R/W Uptown
Grand Central-42 St 92 12:45 PM 4/5/6 Downtown
Fulton St 90 9:20 AM J/Z
34 St-Herald Square 89 9:02 AM B/D Uptown
34 St-Herald Square 88 9:05 AM F/M Downtown
Lexington Av-53 St 88 9:36 AM E
34 St-Penn Station (A/C/E) 86 9:25 AM A/C/E

We also did a few more as we traveled around yesterday: 

Brooklyn Bridge – City Hall 102 10:00 AM 4/5/6 Downtown
Bowling Green (4/5) 98 9:50 AM 4/5
Lexington Av-51 St 91 9:41 AM 6
116th St 93 9:56 AM 6
Atlantic Ave/Barclays Center 92 9:31 AM 4/5
Borough Hall 98 9:50 AM 4/5
Nevins Street 97 8:14 AM 2/3/4/5 Uptown
Whitehall St, South Ferry 89 9:36 AM R/W Downtown
Franklin Avenue 96 9:23 AM 4/5
Franklin Avenue 94 8:06 AM 2/3/4/5 Uptown

The heat in underground subway stations isn’t just a nuisance for New Yorkers, but it also poses a serious health risk for those who not only ride the subways, but work on them too. The NYC Health Department says “A heat index above 95°F is especially dangerous for older adults and other vulnerable individuals,” and 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.”

As our Save Our Subways report points out, there are ways for the MTA to use new technology they are already starting to install to help cool subways, like leveraging regenerative braking and CBTC to reduce the heat generated by trains. But there is more that needs to be done.

According to a report by the New York Academy of Sciences published in 2015, the average temperature between 1900 and 2013 has increased by 3.4 degrees in the city. 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 get warmer. 


3 Comments

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  1. 1
    Edward Acker

    The heat at stations being generated from the train’s brakes and air conditioning systems is compounded by the generally low station ceilings in the NYC system. Heat stratifies right at the user level and has no place to dissipate. Contrast with the stations on the DC Metro which have high arched ceilings. They are still hot but the worst of the heat migrates up to the top of the arches above the station occupants.

  2. 2
    Edward Acker

    RPA observed an 86 degree outside air temperature at their tests. But, the surface temperature at street level macadam under which NYC train tunnels and stations are located in fairly shallow cuts might rise to 150 degrees. By evening rush hour that heat is absorbed by the ground and radiates through the tunnels and stations. If there is a multi-day heat wave the tunnels and stations do have a chance to cool off overnight.

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