In the greater scheme of things, the temperature of a city bus doesn’t rank with safety, reliability and cost when it comes to transit topics that resonate with the public.
Still, it's not uncommon to hear complaints about how stuffy and uncomfortable some transit vehicles get, especially this time of year, with commuters more likely to be wearing raingear, heavy coats and scarves.
I’ll admit it. I’m one of the water cooler complainers.
Just last week, I endured a 35-minute, crosstown bus ride that was more akin to hot yoga than public transportation. It was nauseating and utterly unpleasant. Passengers, already jammed into the vehicle like sardines, were forced to sweat the long ride out.
Considering ongoing fears over spreading the H1N1 virus in humid public spaces, this was in my view neither a healthy nor happy commute.
So what's going on here?
Coast Mountain Bus Company spokesperson Derek Zabel looked into my admittedly grumpy climate inquiries recently. According to Zabel, bus heaters are preset to 22 C, and are automatically controlled by temperature sensors. In other words, they work like a home furnace.
According to Zabel, drivers of conventional buses have the ability to activate a "boost" mode, which cranks up the heater's fan speed to high. (Trolley bus operators, on the other hand, have no control over the temperature.)
For folks who appreciate fresh air with their transit trip, this “boost” sounds like a bust.
No wonder some perspiring riders take to what might be described as the ultimate act of onboard micro-mischief: Opening the bus window.
Not that this strategy helps much, according to Zabel. "Passengers opening windows to cool the coach down only serve to lower the temperature and force the heaters to re-engage to compensate for the heat loss," he said.
So what's a hot-blooded commuter to do?
Talking to the driver might work. That’s what I did last week, once the sweaty mob cleared out of the vehicle.
As it turned out, he wasn’t deliberately inflicting memories of last summer’s heat wave upon us. His working area happened to be cool and comfortable. So he was oblivious to the temperature in the back-half of the articulated bus.
So if you’re not one to savour the swelter, there’s no need to get off the bus. Just find a seat near the front door.
Either that, or keep some yoga wear handy.