“For too long the subway system has been an information black hole in our lives,” said MTA Chairman Jay H. Walder in an October press release through Transit Wireless, the company formed specially to “provide a shared wireless infrastructure to enable commercial wireless services for the New York City Transit Authority. But now for AT&T and TMobile wireless customers, four subway stations are freed from that technological void as the first round of cell service connectivity is launched.
According to Transit Wireless, the original plan was to establish wireless capability in all of New York City’s 277 underground subway stations by 2016, however according to reporting done by CBS news, now Transit Wireless and the MTA hope to have total subway coverage finished over the next four years with a total projected cost of 100 to 200 million dollars. The two current service providers, AT&T and TMobile both have 10-year contracts with four additional 5-year renewal options. Transit Wireless stated in their October press release that receiving support from these two major carriers will benefit riders beyond just providing wireless service, but also by providing revenue to the MTA. Currently only the two carriers will be available, however in a press conference, Carmen Bianco, a senior vice president of subway operations for the MTA said they are still in talks with both Verizon and Spring, but that he couldn’t say when the carriers would be available.
Yet individual rider reactions are mixed. “It’s one of the last places you can’t use your cell phone,” Soule Golden, a 28-year old New Yorker said in an interview with the Daily News, “it’s annoying to have to listen to people talking on their cell phones all the time.” Others find it helpful for both simple connectivity and more practically for ensuring accurate directions within subway tunnels. “When I’m going from point A to point B, it’ll be nice to make sure I’m going the right way, since I’m not from the city,” Jessica Beuffkin, a recent New York addition told CBS news. While Bill Bayne, the CEO of Transit Wireless in a press conference said that the additional connectivity will help dramatically with transit safety, “For those of you who see something, down here we can enable you to say something” he said, playing off of the New York subway “see something, say something” theme.
Meanwhile, subway cell phone thefts are at an all-time high, prompting further questions as to what effect wireless connectivity on trains will have on this issue. “It will encourage people to bring [cell phones] out,” subway riders advocate Bill Henderson told Metro New York news in response to connectivity and thefts.
Ultimately, it appears that full-scale subway connectivity is on its way to becoming a reality but its effects on city transportation are still yet to be seen.