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Keeping your cool during the sizzling summer heat

The heat is on! And, as a bus or light rail rider, you can certainly feel it!

You’re not the only one. Buses and light rail trains are put into overdrive during the extreme heat and Valley Metro takes precautions to help keep you as cool as possible on searing summer days.

Bus and light rail at sunsetFor anyone who’s spent any time during the summer in the Valley of the Sun, they know the desert can be brutal. It’s actually during the cooler months that Valley Metro prepares buses and light rail trains to keep you as comfortable as possible in the triple digit heat.

Think about how the air conditioning runs constantly in your home, churning out cool air on a sweltering afternoon. Now imagine what it takes to keep a 90 foot train, with dozens of passengers on board, at a temperature of 78 degrees during intense heat.

“Our air conditioning units work very hard,” said Kenny Raghunandan, Light Rail Vehicle Maintenance Superintendent. “The a/c units run 100% of the time on hot summer days.”

In order to ensure the air conditioning systems are in tip-top shape when the temperatures climb, they are put through rigorous inspections during the spring.

“The inspection exposes weak components that are replaced to avoid potential failures during service,” he said. “Interior heat can rise to unbearable temperatures very quickly.”

That’s why back-up plans are in place.Light rail air conditioning maintenance

The next time you ride light rail, consider what’s above you and out of sight. There are two over-sized a/c units on each train along with a power supply that includes four power modules to keep the a/c units running. One of those modules is in place just in case another one fails. With that fourth module, the a/c units will continue to run until the failed module can be replaced.

Inside the light rail train, a/c ducts run the entire length of the train on the ceiling. And, as you gaze outside the train, you’re looking through solar reflective windows. They incorporate a special film that significantly reduces the amount of the sun’s rays that penetrate the light rail train.

Similar to light rail, maintenance teams spend the cooler months preparing the Valley Metro bus fleet for summer. Bus air conditioning maintenance

“The foremost item of preparation is the air conditioning system,” said David Hyink, Valley Metro Program Supervisor. “Every 7,500 miles the a/c system is thoroughly cleaned.”

Pre-seasonal inspections test all functions of every component of the climate control system to identify any weak spots that would contribute to problems down the road.

Unique to Valley Metro buses, an additional air conditioning condenser is mounted on the roof of a bus. Heat accumulated from the interior of the vehicle is expelled outside and helps keep the a/c from shutting down on the hottest of days.

“This retrofit has increased air conditioning capacity by approximately 60%,” said Hyink.

Another unbearable scenario for riders would be for the engine to overheat while in service. To improve performance, Valley Metro retrofitted 88 older buses in 2012, and since 2010, has ordered all new buses with a special electric engine cooling fan system.

“This engine cooling system has substantially reduced engine overheating,” said Hyink.

Made in the Shade

People say it’s a dry heat. But that’s not much consolation when it’s 115 degrees outside and you’re waiting for a bus or light rail.

Light rail stationHowever, special structures at light rail platforms are designed to maximize shade. For instance, shade canopies are made of a fabric material to block the sun’s rays without the excess heat that typical metal canopies generate. Also, take note of the artwork at light rail stations. Several of the pieces have been incorporated to assist with shade.

You might even feel a cool chill at the 3rd St./Washington light rail station in downtown Phoenix. The solar-powered system features push buttons near each seating area that provide blasts of cool air on demand.

When the heat is blistering, you can feel it radiating off the ground around you. The sensation can be sweltering. In Chandler, Gilbert and Mesa, the LINK bus shelters were designed with your core body temperature in mind. They incorporate louvers, which allow for breezes, provide shade and help reduce the radiant temperatures of the areas where you wait. In addition, thick screens, made of grates, are designed to prevent the inside surface of the shelter from being too hot to touch. It may not seem like much when the heat is oppressive and waiting for the bus is almost unbearable, but every bit of breeze and shade helps.

Keeping Your Cool

You can take steps to protect yourself in the summer sun as you walk to and from bus and light rail stops. From carrying plenty of water to reducing wait times with the Ridekick® app, visit for safety tips to help you play it safe and keep your cool in triple digit heat.

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