Cell Phone Cacophony to Invade NYC Subway Stations

Transit Wireless, a joint venture that includes Nab Construction, Q-Wireless, Dianet Communications and Transit Technologies, won the right to wire for cell phone use New York City Transit’s 277 subway stations in a 10-year contract valued at US$46.8 million, according to news accounts of the closely watched bidding.

As part of the project, Transit Wireless will bear the estimated $150 million to $200 million building costs. It will receive fees from cell phone providers to carry their signals on the subway network.

The project — which does not include the actual tunnels in deference to people who do not wish to be exposed to a sea of chatter — will reportedly start to go live in about two years at six stations in downtown Manhattan. The joint venture will then have another four years to connect the additional stations.

Join the Crowd

This deal puts New York on a small but growing map of municipalities whose subway systems are wired for cell phone use. The first was, not surprisingly, San Francisco in 2005 when BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) wired its system. Other major city subway systems, such as Washington, D.C.’s metro, also are wired for cell phone use.

The development is evoking both delight and irritation from subway passengers. New York City has address both camps with its approach. Its intent is to provide travelers with few extra minutes of connectivity as they move from the street to the trains. Once the train pulls out from the station, though, the signal goes dead.

No Stock Tips Please

In that respect, Neil Gussman, communications manager for the Chemical Heritage Foundation, is thankful for small favors.

“I have a 70-mile commute from Lancaster, Pa., to Philadelphia, which includes Amtrak and the Market Street subway line,” he told TechNewsWorld, “and ride the New York subway on a regular basis when I am in town as well.

“In my experience, cell phones limit the ridership of Amtrak and regional rail — I know people who drive to avoid being seated with or near the moronic conversations people have on cell phones in trains.”

Adding cell phone conversations to the gestalt that is the New York subway would be, Gussman said, very sad.

“I use the subways to get around town. I don’t want to hear about stock deals and someone’s problems with his or her mother when I am underground.”

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