MTA Builds Up Tech Services

BY JOE MARVILLI
Staff Writer

By this summer, Queens residents will no longer have to worry about a call being cut off in the subway.

On Feb. 19, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced that wireless cell phone service and Wi-Fi will be installed in all 29 of Queens’ underground subway stations in the coming months.

Transit Wireless, the company handling the project, said it is in the beginning of Phase Two of its project with the MTA for the services to be available in underground subway stations throughout the City. This phase kicked off with service added to 11 stations in midtown Manhattan, such as Grand Central Terminal, 34th St. Herald Square and Bryant Park.

Construction for these services in Queens is expected to be finished by June, increasing the number of annual riders with access to underground cell and Wi-Fi service to 250 million. All of the major cell phone carriers, AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless and Sprint, will be covered. Miles of high-speed fiber optic network cables are being installed throughout the tunnels for Internet service as well.

To support this project, Transit Wireless is building a new, secure Base Station Hotel in Woodside, a center that will hold the wireless carriers’ telecommunications equipment.

“The MTA’s firm commitment to bringing our transit system into the 21st century continues to bear fruit with new technology that will improve our customers’ daily commutes,” MTA head Thomas Prendergast said in a statement. “Providing cell phone and data connectivity to our Queens customers is the latest step in keeping everyone connected and bringing a new level of security with the ability to dial 911 in an emergency.”

MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz added that the installation will not cause any delays or service changes.

“This is part of our effort to improve our customers’ experience underground,” he said.

The New York Public Interest Research Group’s Straphangers Campaign said it is cautiously optimistic about the project, as the organization is concerned with the increased amount of unwanted noise in the subway cars. Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for the Straphangers Campaign, said that some people may conduct loud conversations on the phone without the option of walking away for riders.

“In general, they’ve come to accept this on the platforms. On the subway cars, you’re a captive audience. You’ve got to hang in there,” he said. “Talking to many riders, they want to be contact with their kids, with their coworkers. We support it as a way for people to increase using subways to communicate with the outside world.”

The MTA also announced on Feb. 24 that its “Bus Time” application has expanded and will begin covering all of Queens and Brooklyn on March 9. Customers will be able to find out exactly where their bus is in real time, via smart phone, web and text message. The expansion will increase the number of buses using the program by 9,000 stops, to a total of more than 15,000.

Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, jmarvilli@queenstribune.com, or @Joey788.