“Getting on the subway” may no longer be a valid excuse to stop responding to those work messages.
The MTA announced on Tuesday a plan to provide cell service between stations and expand Wi-Fi to its above-ground stations and Staten Island Railway stations. To complete the decade-long project, the agency is again partnering with 5G wireless infrastructure company Transit Wireless. The company has been supplying cell and Wi-Fi connectivity in the subway systems’ underground stations since 2007, and also installed full connectivity along the L train in 2020, the agency said.
“Bringing cell connectivity to the tunnels between stations and Wi-Fi to above-ground stations is a major step forward in enhancing transit riders’ experience,” MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber said in a statement. “And the deal MTA has landed will also help the MTA’s bottom line – a major concern as the pandemic winds down.”
The announcement comes as the transportation agency faces the financial conundrum of trying to make up for the money lost from pandemic-era ridership dips. According to the announcement, Transit Wireless will take on the $600 million job of building out infrastructure to support the plan and the MTA will share in the revenue generated from cell providers.
“Having uninterrupted network connection underground will reimagine how New Yorkers travel by providing the opportunity to take advantage of every minute of their commute with cell service and internet connection,” NYC Transit President Richard Davey said in a statement.
Dumbo resident Ying Zhang was rushing into the C train platform at Spring Street on Tuesday when she said she’s looking forward to a more connected commute.
“To have internet between the stations, that would be amazing,” Zhang said. “I mean, it just makes your commute shorter if you're able to search, or sometimes work or check your Slack or check your emails or even.”
She takes the F train to Manhattan every day, losing service during the underwater tunnel portion of the ride.
“It’s a really great moment to catch up on the news for the day…or even read an e-book or something, but sometimes you want to refresh and go to the next page, and you can't do that,” she said. “You've got to wait until the next station and the next station.”
For attorney Susan Stolzer, who takes the 1 train to work in Midtown, improved connectivity is a good thing – but not a priority for her while commuting.
“I would rather see improvements to the service, I would rather see upgrades to the stations,” Soltzer said. “I would rather see enhancements of on-time performance of the trains, reliability of the trains, not having to wait 10 minutes for a train, less crowded trains, cleaner trains, cleaner stations.”
The contract was approved by the MTA Finance Committee Monday and will seek full board approval on Wednesday.