L train riders may be familiar with this scenario: you’re cruising along out of the Bedford Avenue station and zooming into First Avenue…any minute now…still waiting...only to get stuck in the East River tunnel without any service. With no other options, you're forced to look at the stale content already loaded on your phone—or, dear lord, at each other.
The MTA has decided to take advantage of the ongoing L train tunnel rehabilitation project to also add Wi-Fi and cell service to the tunnel. The agency issued a request for proposals Dec. 27th for a real estate license to build infrastructure for cell service in the tunnel. Once finished, it will be the first under-river tunnel in the city subway system to offer full connectivity, according to the MTA.
“Providing full connectivity to our millions of customers is a part of our continued push to modernize the MTA system,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Patrick J. Foye in a release. “We’re working to deliver full connectivity across our system and allow our customers to use their commuting time to meet their needs, whether it’s texting with friends and family or communicating with coworkers.”
Some straphangers weren't keen on the idea of hearing their fellow passengers "communicating with coworkers":
As we wrote in 2017, after it was announced there would be Wi-Fi available in every subway station in the city, with great power comes great responsibility: "Treat trains and subway platforms as you would an elevator. They are both cramped public spaces you have to share with other human beings. Everyone is on their way somewhere else, and often in a rush to do so. Talking to someone who is physically there is one thing, but nobody wants to be forced to listen to your attempts to make plans with your friend next Saturday. As with most matters of subway etiquette, the best thing you can do is think outside of yourself for a moment."
Other upcoming connectivity projects for the MTA are the dead zones in the Long Island Rail Road’s Atlantic Avenue tunnels and the new LIRR tunnels to Grand Central when the East Side Access project wraps up in 2022.
The deadline for companies to submit their proposals is Jan. 13th, though it's unclear if cell service will be in place by the time the repairs are done next spring.