Subways weren’t always air conditioned

By Larry Penner

Previous generations of subway riders would have no problems with 16 of 6,300 cars operating without functioning air conditioning as recently reported.

The air conditioned buses and subway cars that we all take for granted today were virtually non existent during the time of the 1964-65 Worlds Fair.

Air conditioned buses were still a novelty. It was not until 1966 that New York City Transit first purchased over 600 buses with this new feature. Subsequently, all new buses would include air conditioning. By the early 1990’s, 100% of the bus fleet was air conditioned.

In 1967, NYC Transit introduced the first 10 air conditioned subway cars operating on the old IND line. It was not until 1975 that air conditioned subway cars were introduced on the old IRT lines. It took until 1982 to retrofit all the original IRT “Redbird” series subway cars. By 1993, 99% of the NYC 6,000 subway cars were air conditioned with the exception of a handful running on the #7 Flushing line.

Larry Penner

Great Neck

(Larry Penner is a transportation historian and advocate who previously worked 31 years for the US Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office).

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