Home Asides Heat sinks countdown clocks at 13 stations

Heat sinks countdown clocks at 13 stations

by Benjamin Kabak

Over the past few weeks, a few readers have e-mailed me wondering about the state of the popular countdown clocks. At a handful of stations throughout the system, the clocks had gone dark as the temperatures rose, and the two were indeed related. As a few news outlets reported yesterday and as I had learned last summer, the MTA has been treading carefully with the countdown clocks when it comes to the heat. As with every type of computer-based technology, exposing the underlying technology to extreme heat can be damaging, and so Transit officials opted to turn off the clocks in 13 particularly toasted stations.

According to Transit, those stations impacted by the heat so far include the following: Spring Street and 77th St. on the 6; Intervalue Ave., Park Place, 191st St., 145th St. – Lenox Ave., Clark St., Gun Hill Road, 79th St., 59th St. – Columbus Circle and 145th St. on the 1, 2 or 3; and Utica Ave. and the express platform at 86th St. and Lexington along the 4 and 5. The authority also issued a statement: “In certain subway stations, when we experience several days of hot weather, temperatures can exceed 120 degrees in the communications rooms that hold the equipment that drive the countdown clocks. We are constantly monitoring temperatures and working to install cooling systems in impacted communications rooms.”

This is, of course, part of the problem with installing 21st Century technology in a 20th Century transit network. The space for the appropriate types of cooling systems is at a premium. Still, Transit has at the least acknowledged the problem. “We know our customers have come to rely on the ‘next train arrival’ information,” they said, “and we apologize for the inconvenience and ask for their patience as we work to resolve this issue.”

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Pete July 22, 2011 - 1:20 pm

The air conditioning problem with the communications rooms was identified 10 years ago by the maintainers to management that the newly rebuilt comm rooms had to be vented to the street not the subway to accomodate all the additional heat from the added electronic equipment. This was ignored by management by Electronic Maintenance Dept. management and subsequently millions of additional dollars have to be spent venting and air conditioning underground comm rooms even at newly rehabbed stations. The signs themselves are LED and don’t give off heat or use much power the problem is with other equipment like the SONET fiber optic relay equipment.

pete July 23, 2011 - 6:02 pm

So whats wrong with the window AC in the wall of comm room pointing into the platform/tunnel approach currently used?

Pete August 8, 2011 - 10:33 am

The air on the platform is already too hot and those small air conditioners can’t handle the 24 hour load trying to cool the communications rooms to the desired coolness.

Al D July 22, 2011 - 3:04 pm

Add Union Square to the list.

Their statement is riduculous. Anywhere (except I guess at the MTA) where there is sensitive computer equipment, part of the supporting infrastructure is an air conditioned location. Ask any IT guy. Data Centers are typically kept quite cool.

Peter July 22, 2011 - 5:26 pm

Heat? yeah, but powder-fine steel dust wreaks havoc on electical devices, and must be a contributing factor. Electronic devices, like cash registers and calculators in stores in the subway have a fraction of the life they do in the no-transit world.
I assume the Countdown Clocks are hardened like other electonic devices, but they probably havent been tested as extensively as Metrocard and NEMA-rated electrical equipment throughtout NYCT.

Christopher Stephens July 22, 2011 - 8:07 pm

I can’t speak for the other stations, but the count-down clocks at 86th Street have been down since long before this heat wave.

Alex C July 22, 2011 - 10:08 pm

Union Square was definitely down today. Not sure if this was heat related, but the gap fillers at the southbound local platform at Union Square were also malfunctioning for a while around lunch time. A manhole fire near Parsons resulted in some B/D being routed down the F for the 4th or 5th time over the past month or so. Heat is wreaking havoc in general with the subway system.

Carol F. July 23, 2011 - 4:04 pm

All of this week the clocks on the uptown 1,2,3 platform on 14th st also weren’t working.

Think twice July 23, 2011 - 5:34 pm

I knew a day like this would come. The MTA would’ve been better off getting the stations wired for cell phone service and giving riders alerts for trains ETAs, delays, etc.

Yankees368 July 24, 2011 - 11:38 am

that is a LOT more expensive to do. All the countdown clocks are doing is giving a visual representation of information that the MTA already has. Wiring stations up for cell service requires major work and cooperation from the cell companies. Just look at how hard it has been for the company contracted to do it.


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