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Cooling down commuter rail

<p>While passengers sweltered for hours on a broken-down Amtrak train from Boston to New York recently in Connecticut, John Ray wasn’t taking any heat during the Hub’s own bout with extreme temperatures.</p>

While passengers sweltered for hours on a broken-down Amtrak train from Boston to New York recently in Connecticut, John Ray wasn’t taking any heat during the Hub’s own bout with extreme temperatures.


The MBTA’s director of railroad operations wasn’t sweating because he knew about half of the T’s commuter rail coaches were equipped with new technology for real-time temperature monitoring.


“It’s a very good feeling,” Ray said of avoiding the type of public relations nightmares the T faced in 2006, when a batch of faulty air conditioners left passengers steaming. “We spent a lot of time and effort trying to improve that ability.”


Temperatures are supposed to hover in the 80s and low 90s over the next week.


The T has put $10 million to $12 million into fixing trains’ AC, but the new temperature-monitoring ability only ran about $50 -- the cost of cable connecting the coaches’ new temperature control units to WiFi routers.


“With WiFi and GPS we can see when [the car] starts to turn warm and we know where it’s heading and we can send technicians to that car,” Ray said. “It saves a tremendous amount of time.”


The technology also keeps Ray and his team out of the heat, literally.


“We would actually bring the office staff out on a hot day, secretaries and everybody,” Ray said, “and put them out on the platforms at North Station and South Station with an infrared gun to determine which cars were in trouble.”

 
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