Additional maintenance technicians, track inspectors and escalator crews are on standby to respond to heat-related troubles that may pop up on the Metro system today, transit officials said.
Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said the transit agency has 40 car maintenance technicians on hand Friday to address problems with rail cars being too hot, plus more escalator crews should breakdowns occur at some of the stations with long moving staircases, such as Woodley Park and Bethesda.
Friday afternoon commuters may also see fewer eight-car trains, Stessel said, because some cars with air-conditioning problems have been pulled from service.
Metro said it is trying to respond quickly to the hot car problem. According to Stessel, FixWMATA, a blogger who maintains a database of rail cars with air-conditioning problems based on reports from riders, tallied 45 hot cars this morning out of Metro’s fleet of 1,128.
Stessel said Metro is also keeping track of hot stations.
For those weary and hot commuters who use Rosslyn and Pentagon City stations — which Metro’s General Manager Richard Sarles uses daily, Stessel points out — hang on. Little relief is coming until this fall for the Rosslyn station when Metro plans to improve the chiller units at that stop.
(The underground stations don’t have air-conditioning but industrial chiller units, which are designed to “knock the ambient temperate down 10 or 15 degrees.. . . There’s hot air coming in from entrances. It is just designed to provide some temperature relief,” Stessel said.)
At Rosslyn, the chiller is simply old. It is part of the original system, Stessel said. It is slated for replacement this fall.
“If we attempt to address it now instead of having little relief you’d have no relief,” Stessel said, because it would have to be taken out of service.
At Pentagon Station, the ducts are the problem, he said, and are scheduled for work in early August.
At Ballston, another reported hot station, Stessel said the problem is that “hot air gets pushed in from trains coming in eastbound.”
“It’s been a problem for a long time,” he said. “We are aware of it.”
Ballston is getting another chiller unit to replace its existing one after Oct. 15, he said.
“In the interim we’re using tunnel fans to make sure there’s some air movements,” Stessel said.
To prevent heat kinks in the extreme temperatures, Stessel said there’s little to do.
“There’s nothing you can do but have enhanced track inspections,” he said. “With the sunlight and ambient temperatures it is like putting your hand on the hood of a car.
“That temperature is much hotter than the air,” he said. On the rails, it creates an expansion and the rail tracks can “develop anomalies.”
“It can result in a heat kink,” he said. “We’ve got track inspectors out walking the tracks. If there’s a track that has a problem we want to get it out of service. The quicker we detect an anomaly and get track personnel out there the sooner we can get normal service restored.”
Stessel said Metro has approved overtime for its elevator and escalator repair teams so that when reports come in of outages crews are ready.
“Those crews are on standby to respond as quickly as possible,” he said.
Metro’s bottom line: “Things are going to happen in these extreme temperatures,” Stessel said. “We’re focused on responding as quickly as possible. We’re focused on trying to minimize the inconvenience.”