Update: procurement set to begin for cell service in subway stations

I know that many Source readers have been clamoring for cell and/or wi-fi service in Metro’s subway stations — something that has become reality in a few other cities.

Metro is finally on the verge of asking potential contractors to bid on supplying service. There’s no guarantee it will happen — the numbers have to add up and the decision will ultimately be up to the Metro Board of Directors.

But here’s an update from Metro CEO Art Leahy’s daily email to staff from this past Friday:

Procurement will release a Request for Proposals (RFP) next week to procure Underground Cell Phone and Data Services. The procurement process blackout period is expected to run from December 20, 2011 to March 12, 2012. Metro does not currently have cell phone or data services available in its underground rail system. This competitive procurement seeks to provide such services at no cost to Metro through a neutral host provider (NHP) who will contract with the major carriers and share a portion of its gross revenue with Metro.

11 replies

  1. Wi-fi would be fine, but full on voice? The red line is one of the only trains in the service that is peaceful and quiet because cell phones cannot work on-board. This is a good thing.

  2. I just hope there’s language in the contract and/or board approved procedures regarding cutting off the system during incidents so we can avoid another BART debacle.

  3. I agree that wifi would be just fine. Cell service may be a bit too much since talking on the phone, and loudly, seems to be popular on some of the lines above ground. I notice the deputies have service underground which is a must, but it would seem this could be lucrative for metro to have a provider pay “rent” for the space. This could help for people that get lost as well. G.P.S and things of that sort would work underground, instead of going above ground, where many tourist or people not familiar with the system have already lost their sense of direction.

  4. Please Metro, take a note from Tokyo’s trains (which all have cell service) and start a campaign in trains and buses to refrain from talking on the phone. It’s terribly rude and annoying to everyone. In fact, start promoting a greater sense of civility on all public transit with various printed remainders and ads.
    While Metro is at it, turn off the sound from those inane televisions on the bus.

  5. I would echo the concerns on enabling voice communication underground, but I don’t think a ban is the way to go about it. I’m ok with people making quick calls, texting, etc., but what happens on the above ground variations are full drawn out conversations at loud volume. I’ve heard flat out yelling matches between significant others over the phone. Can’t say I was terribly amped on being subjected to that.

    I’m sure that a campaign for quiet conversations might be effective. That being said, there are already bans on audible music from phones and other portable devices (like on a speaker) and that doesn’t seem to deter anyone. Can’t say I’ve ever seen someone given a ticket for that, or for sitting on the stairs blocking entrances or exits to the trains.

    Wi-fi, 3G, and 4G enabling are a must, although I don’t the specifics on whether for phone companies to supply coverage on metro trains if that’s a potential revenue source for Metro or not. I do think it’d be the difference maker for a lot of the white-collar crowd.

    Overall, glad Metro has the ball rolling on this.

  6. @Michi Eyre: Are you referring to the Oscar Grant shooting? If so, I’d think having impartial cameras on the train to document a situation is a powerful democratic tool, no? Police brutality is a big problem in the bay area, and it’s obviously been a problem in our city in the past.

  7. Yes to both! DC has had cell service on the DC Metro since 2009! Metro is a bit late. Surprisingly very few loud, obnoxious people on the train as everyone can hear you conversation and disruptive talkers quickly become the target of many nasty looks.