NEW YORK—In an effort to modernize the subway system, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) has added free Wi-Fi and calling services to 40 stations.
The latest additions include major commuter hubs such as 34th Street-Herald Square, 42nd Street-Bryant Park, and Grand Central-42nd Street, as well as more obscure Queens stops, like 75th Avenue, Hunters Point Avenue, and Sutphin Boulevard.
The MTA’s chief planner, William Wheeler, said that the authority hopes to appeal to millennials, the generation born after 1980, which is the largest growing sector of their ridership, according to him.
“These riders don’t have a driver’s license and choose not to. They embrace transit for all types of travel, day and night. They want to be connected,” said Wheeler, who has two children over 20.
“It’s no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity,” said Royal Caribbean International vice president Jeff Dekorte, who related MTA’s Wi-Fi upgrade with the cruise ship company’s latest “smart” ship.
A year and a half ago, Wi-Fi and voice services were added to the first 36 Midtown Manhattan stations.
The additional 40 are part of phase two of a seven-phase plan that will eventually encompass all 279 New York City subway stations by 2017.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has expressed his support for the measures, saying that they will add extra security to an old and busy system that carries 47 million riders monthly.
MTA head spokesman Adam Lisberg agreed, saying that, “It’s a boon for public safety. Because no longer are you on a platform with no way to contact the outside world.”
He added, “On any one of these increasing number of wired platforms, you can call 911, you can call a friend on a dark platform at night, even if there’s nothing scaring you. You have more ability to reach out.”
The upgrade in technology has cost over $300 million, but neither the MTA nor taxpayers are footing the bill.
Instead Transit Wireless, the company providing stations with phone and Internet service, is privately funding the venture.
No Plan for Wi-Fi in Subway Tunnels
New York City riders hoping to send out emails and make calls throughout their commute will hit a snag, however.
While the project to bring additional phone services to stations is a year ahead of schedule, there is no plan currently to supply subway tunnels with the same convenience.
“Putting antennas in subway tunnels is hard to do without either disrupting train service or getting run over,” said Lisberg.
Commuter and risk manager Mark Undurwol, 51, said that no service in the tunnels meant “you really have limited time to use the Wi-Fi, you know. Hopefully you’re not waiting for the train too long.”
He said that he usually doesn’t use his phone in the subway, because it’s noisy.
Subway Station Platforms with WiFi and Wireless Service Options:
Source: Gov. Cuomo Office Press Release