Frustration levels are running high among train and subway commuters amid a spell of uncomfortably hot weather this summer, driving many to demand cooler trains.

Tokyo commuters have a tough time from the heat — and chill — of summer

But railways face a dilemma in responding to such requests, because they know that even if they satisfy some commuters by lowering train car temperatures, there will always be others who complain that it’s too cold.

Since April, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s Transportation Bureau, which operates the Toei subway system, has received some 70 complaints that trains are not cool enough.

In July alone, the bureau received almost 30 complaints. The Toei system, which has set temperatures inside trains at 25 since the introduction of air conditioning in 1989, claims it received only eight such complaints last year.

“This (increase) is definitely because of the hot weather,” an official of the bureau figured.

Yet, despite the mounting calls for cooler trains, bureau officials claim they cannot turn temperatures down.

“The temperature at which people feel comfortable varies from person to person. While some demand cooler trains, there are also others who say carriages are too cold,” the official said.

But after receiving more complaints, the bureau decided to lower the temperature to 23 on the Oedo Line in early June. The latest addition to the Toei system uses smaller trains and makes many stops, thus causing the interior temperature to stay relatively high, the officials said.

However, such thermostat lowering is still the exception, as most railways do not plan to change the standard interior temperature they have set for trains.

“It’s an eternal problem,” said a spokesman for Tokyu Corp. “The same is true for winter. We receive complaints anyway, either up or down.”

During summer, Tokyu sets the standard temperature at 25, which was deemed most appropriate for people after experimenting with different settings.

Facing the dilemma, some railways have decided to seek cooperation from passengers.

Keio Electric Railway Co., for example, is waging a public relations effort to get passengers to adjust to conditions via the clothing they wear.

“Every year, we receive almost the same number of complaints in both cases — either about being too cold or too hot,” a company spokesman said. In an attempt to accommodate the diverse needs of passengers, many carriers have included a mildly air-conditioned car, identified by markings on the outside, in each train.

The standard temperature for mildly air-conditioned cars varies, but usually, they are set some 2 degrees higher than other cars. In case of the JR Yamanote Line, they are set at 26.

While uncomfortable train temperatures are for many merely part of the stress of commuting, Mitsu Tanaka, who practices acupuncture in Tokyo, claims that cool trains are potentially life-threatening.

“This is a horrible thing,” Tanaka said when asked about the growing call for cooler trains.

Tanaka is an advocate for those suffering from sensitivity to the cold and promotes public awareness of the adverse health effects of excessive air conditioning.

“The temperatures inside trains are too low in general. In oriental medicine, coldness is considered a major health hazard. It is often linked to strokes and heart attacks,” she said, adding that the ideal temperature for trains is between 27 and 28.

“We are not saying they should not use air conditioners. We are just asking for diverse choices, such as increasing the number of cars with different temperatures,” she said.

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