BRRRR Part 2: Commuting in the Cold

By Georgia Lobb

BRRRRRRRR at the Bridgeport bus terminal this week.

This morning, my brother who lives in Washington, DC, posted on his Tumblr: “I am the person who runs to the metro in the cold.” I texted him to ask why he was running, not walking.

“The cold! It’s the reason I don’t take the bus in the winter,” he replied. “The buses here are never on time.”

Closer to home, Bridgeport residents are saying the same thing. At the Bridgeport Bus Station this week, multiple commuters tried to stay warm while they waited. Some reported waiting up to an hour a day outside to catch their buses or trains.  Though heating apparatuses seem to be installed in the Bridgeport Bus Station waiting areas, they merely blow cold air around.

Metro-North commuters also had their fair share of headaches. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) released a statement Wednesday on cold-weather delays, explaining, “Steel rail is affected by extreme hot or cold weather. In the severe cold, rail becomes brittle and contracts. Contractions cause the rails to break, which means that sections of rail have to be removed, and trains have to be taken out of service. In addition, conductors have to operate at slower speeds to ensure safety. Switch failures can also result from winter weather.”

So while Connecticut residents struggle in this cold streak of weather- how is the rest of the world dealing with commuting in the cold?

In Boston and other wintry cities across the nation, cold weather is causing trains to arrive late. Earlier this month, The Boston Globe reported that 27.7 percent of the trains on the MBTA lines had experienced delays or mechanical problems in single digit weather. Stalling, broken rail lines, and unhappy passengers are also effects that cold weather has on public transportation systems.

Philadelphia buses and SEPTA trains experienced issues with broken rail lines and busses with frozen engines last winter, reported CBS in Philadelphia. This year, announced that an “in-house snow team” has been specially assembled to deal with winter-related issues at their 153 rail stations. reported that the Long Island Railroad, NJ Transit, and the Metro North lines have all reported cold weather related issues this winter. Not only were there several reports of broken rails, but delays of up to 20 minutes also kept commuters out in the cold.

In Chicago, more than 120 overhead heat lamps have been activated to keep residents warm while they wait, according to

On the other side of the globe, the Chinese have engineered a train

that can withstand temperatures as low as 40 degrees Celsius. They can also endure rapid temperature change, which is also known to cause issues with how well a train functions.

While China seems to be one step ahead of us in the world of transportation engineering for winter temperatures, commuters across the USA continue to deal with the woes of using public transit.