MTA extends Wi-Fi and cell service to more subway stations

Rachel Liquindoli for WSN

Subway riders can now look forward to checking email, sending text messages and making calls from underground stations, as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority expanded Wi-Fi and cell phone service to 30 additional stations last Thursday.

According to CBS New York, the plan to provide wireless service began when Wi-Fi was tested at six stations last year. The MTA plans to have all subway stations wired by 2016.

The stations now equipped with Wi-Fi and cell service include subway stations from 14th to 96th street in Manhattan as well stations at Times Square, Rockefeller Center and Columbus Circle.

These 36 stations were chosen based on their ridership. The average annual ridership of one of these networked stations is approximated to be around 7 million customers per station.

According to a press release by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, design work has already begun on the next 40 stations in Midtown and Queens and is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2014. Stations soon to be equipped include Flushing – Main Street, Grand Central and Herald Square.

Jared Leavitt, a spokesman for Transit Wireless, the company running the project, said that providing wireless service represents another step toward modernization for the subway.

“[This plan] is part of the MTA’s ongoing commitment to bring our 109-year-old subway system into the 21st century with new technology and ways for customers to get information in real time,” Leavitt said.

The project was sponsored by a variety of wireless companies and cell phone carriers such as AT&T, T-Mobile, Boingo Wireless, as well as a number of construction and installation contractors and hardware suppliers. Sprint and Verizon Wireless are also expected to join the project.

Currently, subway stations in other cities, such as Boston, Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Philadelphia also provide Wi-Fi and cell service. However, Leavitt expects the project in New York City to be one of the the largest and most state-of-the-art in the country.

Cuomo also explained that implementing Wi-Fi in underground metro stations is one of the MTA’s many technological efforts to modernize the city’s public transportation. Bus Time, a new service that provides real-time bus tracking information, is currently operational for parts of the city and expected to be finished by spring 2014.

CAS freshman Edward Hennis views the Wi-Fi plan as a successful method to develop the city as a whole.

“The idea of free Wi-Fi in the subway sounds like a great means of boosting connectivity in the city, especially since almost everywhere else in New York City has readily accessible Wi-Fi,” Hennis said. “It will be interesting to see how it works out over time, especially since the system will have different [wireless] providers.”

Fay Lin is a staff writer. Email her at [email protected]