Vogel: Subway cell service -- more a curse than a blessing

The next phase of service installation is scheduled

The next phase of service installation is scheduled to be completed by December. (Credit: The next phase of service installation is scheduled to be completed by December. (Charles Eckert))

Great news: We can get cellphone and Wi-Fi service at 30 subway stations, and before you know it, at all of them. And ever greater news: We may one day be able to use our cells in subway tunnels, too!

What's that? Not such great news?

"I'm happy that I can reach my clients here," said Tatiana, an East Harlem social worker who sat on the bench beside me at the 86th Street C and B station.

"But in the tunnel? During rush hour? People yakking on their phones?"

I saw her point. A few feet away, a type A executive in a pinstripe suit and red tie was on his phone barking orders. "I'm at the station now -- you'll see me in about 15 minutes!" he bellowed.

Down the platform, those who would usually be reading their newspapers had their heads buried in their cells. Another blow against print media! (Hope they were reading amNY online . . . )

Wireless service should be available in all NYC subway stations within three years. In addition, Transit Wireless, which is in charge of wiring the stations, is now setting up a test program for service in the tunnels.

"If this works, it would be an elegant solution to cover the trains," Transit Wireless CEO Bill Bayne Jr. has said.


"I'm getting off the subway," Mr. Type A roars into his phone at 42nd Street. "You'll be seeing me in five minutes," he grunts, undoubtedly thrilled with the new underground service.

Imagine this guy stuck between stations for 15 minutes with cellphone access. Imagine you standing across from him.

Yes, I understand the blessing of being able to use our mobile phones in emergencies while on the subway, and the convenience of reading emails and texting in transit.

I also understand that cellphone theft has continued to steadily rise over the past three years, as the number of stations with this service has increased.

But whatever the plusses and minuses, it seems cell and Wi-Fi service across our vast subway system is a foregone conclusion.

We can already see the light at the end of this tunnel, and in this case that's barely even a metaphor: It actually involves a speeding train.

Hopefully we'll be glad when it arrives.

Playwright Mike Vogel blogs at newyorkgritty.net.


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