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.”