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A Brief History of Air-Conditioning on the New York Subway

The city has tried to provide a cool summer ride since 1905, with varying degrees of success.
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One of the nice things about New York City in the summertime, aside from all the people fleeing elsewhere, is the reliable comfort of air-conditioned subway cars. "It wasn't always like this," Benjamin Kabak of the transit blog 2nd Ave. Sagas recently reminded us. In a great retrospective that deserves its annual bump to the front page, Kabak guides us through the "turbulent" history of how New York finally controlled the temperature on its subway trains.

Kabak brings the story back to 1955 and a trial run that fared pretty well. The city's transit authority outfitted a subway car with an air-conditioning system and measured the temperature inside at 68 to 73 degrees. The authorities didn't pick the best day for such a test — outside it was just 62 degrees — but they declared their effort a success anyway. The air-conditioned car was hotter than the city streets, but it was still about 15 degrees cooler than the other cars.