An hour later, I shared the voyage of the damned with the silent, sullen riders aboard the Orange Line’s Car 5160. Approaching Vienna, the reading on my digital air thermometer reached 95 degrees.
That was my top temp for last week, but not my all-time record for a Metro ride. That honor goes to Car 5121, where the thermometer hit 100 degrees in July 2010, also near Vienna station.
Riders waiting on platforms should be especially wary when they see one of those cars in the 5000 series roll up. It took me a while to find one not in the upper 80s or low 90s, but I finally did: Car 5008 on the Red Line approaching Woodley Park was 81.3 degrees at 3:07 p.m. Wednesday.
That was as good as it got for the 5000s. Car 5019 on the southbound Yellow Line felt warm as I stepped aboard at Mount Vernon Square at 4:19 p.m. Tuesday. I couldn’t feel any air coming from the overhead air conditioning unit at the end of the car. The vents felt lukewarm.
“Every car I get on today feels like this,” a rider said as she stepped aboard. When I told her it was 87 degrees, she wisely replied, “I’m getting off” and changed cars at the next station.
Air conditioner failures are among the reasons Metro will seal off cars. As a Red Line train pulled into Union Station at 2:16 p.m. Wednesday, the first two cars, 5034 and 5035 remained shut. There was no announcement, but passengers figured out what was going on. Murmuring “hot cars,” they fled in the direction of open doors farther down the platform.
But there are nearly 200 of these decade-old cars in the Metrorail fleet, so chances for sharing the warmth are good. Boarding downtown-bound Car 5077 at Woodley Park on Wednesday afternoon, you would have noticed the heat right away. The air flow through the overhead vents was good, but it was warm. The window rims and side paneling felt like a pot recently pulled from the stove. Temperature: 87.3 degrees at 3:02 p.m.
The 5000 series cars are Metro’s problem children. Of the 371 instances during June in which cars were reported hot, 146 involved cars in the 5000 series. The next closest was the 1000 series, the oldest cars in the fleet, with 93 reports.
Maintenance crews continue to work on the components of the 5000 series air-conditioning units, but this has yielded mixed results.
Best of the rest
While you should be suspicious of the 5000 series cars, with temperatures typically in the upper 80s on very hot days, it’s more difficult to predict conditions on the rest of the fleet.