Politicians Hope Cell Service Will Help Improve Transit Service

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What could be worse than being crammed into an overstuffed, delayed subway car at the height of rush-hour on a steaming August day? Well, how ‘bout being crammed into an overstuffed, delayed subway car at the height of rush hour on a steaming August day and having to listen to the one-sided personal conversations of everyone else on board? That is what the commuter future may eventually hold if several city politicians have their way, critics fear.

Congressman Anthony Weiner and City Council Member John Liu are pushing the MTA to introduce cell phone service to subways after last week’s hellish weather-induced delays left commuters stranded and frustrated, often having to rely on white boards and bullhorns for service announcements. At a press conference yesterday, the two argued that wireless coverage—specifically 911 access and text messaging—would allow the MTA to inform riders of delays and emergencies, thus increasing ridership and safety. “The real root of this problem is that the MTA does not see communication as a core competency that it must have,” Liu, head of the council’s transportation committee, said. “It makes no sense that there is no minimal means of communicating with riders.”

The MTA is already considering introducing cell phone service at 277 underground stations. It originally began accepting bids from companies to wire the stations in 2006, but has not moved forward on the project. According to reports, the MTA said the reason for the delay was that providers weren’t happy limiting service to station platforms and wanted service in the tunnels as well. Riders Chicago and Washington, D.C. can already call police and transit companies for updates from underground. The MTA is expected to make a decision in September.

Photo courtesy of CB35 on Flickr

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