New York Gets Cell Phone Service in the Subways... Sort of... Someday Soon...

Anthony Townsend's picture

It's the talk of the town today. The Metropolitan Transit Authority, after years of dithering has finally signed a contract to build out a shared cell phone infrastructure inside the underground portions of the subway system. Sort of.

According to the New York Times, "[t]he cellphone network will start in six downtown Manhattan stations in two years. Once it is shown to be working properly, Transit Wireless will have four more years to outfit the rest of the underground stations."

Thats six years to completion, folks. Awesome.

By 2013, I'm sure I'll be able to get 3G data in Shanghai's subway or London's underground, and 5G or whatever is state of the art while rocketing through Seoul and Tokyo's massive systems.

Even more lame, the service won't be available on trains moving between stations. Apparently, this is a new twist on the "New York minute" - talk fast because that's all the time you'll have to finish your call. The irony of the M.T.A.'s spokesperson's comments is striking:

"The idea is people can stay connected," said Paul J. Fleuranges, a spokesman for the transit agency.

Yes, you can stay connected. As long as you are not actually RIDING THE SUBWAY.

It's a lack of innovation, execution, and forward thinking like this that continues to make transit a second-rate place, even in New York, where the alternatives aren't very attractive.

Technorati Tags: information technology, infrastructure, mobility, New York City, transportation

Anthony Townsend is a research director at the Institute for the Future (IFTF) in Palo Alto, California.



NYC transit backwardness

Having lived in NYC for two years, I was continually amazed at the contrast between the single largest concentration of wealth in the world and the positively rundown transit system.

(Although great in terms of frequency and coverage, NYC's system is rundown in terms of noise, station conditions, and use of technology. It especially seems this way if you have travelled abroad and seen what has been accomplished in much less wealthy economies. I am aware however that NYC transit was much worse in all these respects in the 1980s, and locals consider current conditions to be a vast improvement.)

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