Jun 24, 2010

Spotting the hot cars

With temperatures reaching near-record highs in the DC area this week, and no relief in sight, we've all become much more aware of metro cars without working air conditioning.  If you've found yourself on one of these cars after the doors close, it's not just hot, it's stuffy and stale.  It feels like the oxygen has been depleted and you need to hold your breath until you can take a gulp of real air as soon as the doors open again.  And you find yourself dripping sweat while just sitting there, and no matter how much you try to distract yourself or fan yourself with the newspaper, you can't stop thinking about just how HOT it is.

Photo from DC Metro People

Here's your first tip.  If you find yourself on one of those cars, switch cars at the next stop.  Most of the time it's just one car that's having issues, not the entire train.  Place yourself at an end door so that at the next stop you can hop out of that car and into an adjacent one.  You probably won't be the only one doing this.

But there are a few clues to help you spot these cars before you get in.  If a train pulls into the station and there's a car that's unusually empty, especially if the car to the front or back of it looks more crowded, it may be a problem with the air.  Also, look for people fanning themselves with newspapers or whatever they're holding.  In this heat with the air not working, it'll be at least half the people in the car fanning themselves for relief.  Finally, if you see a group rush to get off that car only to walk over to the next car, save yourself the trouble and follow them to a better car.

In heat like this in a system known for maintenance problems and broken trains, try to carry a bottle of water with you.  You never know where or when you'll get stuck, and as we saw this week on MARC, you never know how long it'll be.

Share your tips below.

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