Subways in summer: Is it hotter or cooler belowground?

We're too hot to actually figure out the answer to the perennial question: Are you worse off aboveground or on a subway platform in summer?

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Bushwick Ave–Aberdeeen St

Bushwick Ave–Aberdeeen St Photograph: Jonathan Aprea

As disgusting as it may be to be outdoors in the summer, it's easily 1,000 times worse to be underground waiting for a subway. Chalk it up to poor ventilation, or the phenomenon known as "heat sink"—which brings the heat from the sidewalks and buildings above down to subway-level—or the sheer numbers of sweaty people waiting on platforms; whatever the cause, the subways get ridiculously hot. Right?


We've never tried to determine the actual temperature in various subway stations, but the creators of L Degrees—which we found via Second Ave Sagas—however, have done just that, at least with the L line (up to Bushwick Ave–Aberdeen St). They posit it's one of the hottest in the entire subway system, and use a given day's projected temperature to predict how hot it'll be in L stations; if their predictions are indeed correct, then we may never go belowground again.


Today, for example, high temperatures in the city hovered around 100 degrees; that would mean the temperature at, say, 14th St–Union Sq would be about 113 degrees. The lowest temps would be around 107 degrees at a few stations (including First Ave and Grand St).


Interestingly, Gothamist did an actual thermometer test yesterday, comparing the outside temperature with that of two subway stations in Dumbo (High St–Brooklyn Bridge and York St). According to their findings, those stations were actually cooler than it was outdoors. It's possible that their depth—both platforms are well below ground level—may have helped, since it's naturally cooler further belowground. But the lowest temperature they registered was 88 degrees, which isn't horrible, but it's not exactly pleasant, either.


In conclusion, summer is terrible, let's all avoid the subway and just walk everywhere until October. At least then we might be able to catch a breeze somewhere.



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Editor: Marley Lynch (@marleyasinbob)

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