Last month, the Senior Senator from the Great State of New York issued a call for the MTA to outfit their commuter rail trains with wireless Internet. I used his call as a launching point for a brief discussion on how Amtrak, Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road should all be equipped for wireless.
Today, we learn that the MTA, both independent of and because of Schumer’s call, is moving the ball on their wireless plans. Late last week, the agency issued a Request for Expressions of Interest for wireless access on commuter rail trains and in stations. Proposals are due on September 1, and the MTA will establish a timeline of access and hopefully technological adoption in the fall.
Agency officials said that they had these plans in the works prior to Schumer’s comments. “We had [the proposal] in the works prior to the Schumer announcement,” MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said to amNew York’s Heather Haddon.
Meanwhile, MuniWireless, a municipal wireless access blog, has the full RFEI. The full document is 50 pages long and includes a breakdown of ridership demographics and daily station ridership figures. It will make sense to outfit the more popular ones with wireless and to skip some of the lesser used stations.
NYCWireless notes that the RFEI does not include free wi-fi. Dana Spiegel believes that, since these networks are expensive to install and maintain, the MTA will have to charge for wireless access aboard the trains.
In the end, as the RFEI says, this early-stage request will give the MTA “the opportunity to review different technologies and solutions and to evaluate different business cases. As an option, one or both of the Railroads may decide to permit a technical trial of one or more technical solutions at no cost to the Railroads. After the Railroads review the responses to the RFEI (and the results of technical trials, if any), a decision will be made whether to proceed with a wide scale on-train and/or station wireless broadband implementation pursuant to a subsequent request for proposals (“RFP”).”
It’s early for sure, but it’s a start. As I mentioned yesterday in discussing Transit’s public address problem, the authority has lagged across all divisions in bringing new technology on line. To see them moving forward on this project and with an aggressive two-month time frame gives me home for transit-related technology improvements sooner rather than later.