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Cell service on subway platforms to begin Tuesday, MTA confirms

Figueroa, 33, enjoys the strong cell phone reception

Figueroa, 33, enjoys the strong cell phone reception on the 72 St 1-2-3 platform (Andrew Hinderaker) Photo Credit: Figueroa, 33, enjoys the strong cell phone reception on the 72 St 1-2-3 platform (Andrew Hinderaker)

Subway platforms aren’t exactly oases of quiet, but a handful of stations in Manhattan are about to get even louder next week.

After years of just talk, straphangers at six underground stops will actually be able to make calls and go online on their smart phones starting Tuesday, MTA officials confirmed to amNewYork Thursday.

The pilot program for AT&T and T-Mobile customers will begin along the 14th Street corridor — at the A, C, E, F, L, M and No. 1, 2 and 3 platforms — and the C and E train station at 23rd Street. Riders will get a signal while waiting on train platforms, but likely won’t be able to make calls on board trains since the tunnels won’t be wired for service.

Of course, some stations have long had spotty signal bleed, but by 2016, all 277 underground stations are expected to be wired.

The MTA plans to announce the program and offer more details next week. Officials declined to comment further Thursday.

Although Transit Wireless, the company responsible for wiring the stations for mobile phone service, is in talks to expand the pilot to Verizon and Sprint phones, riders with those carriers are out of luck for now.

A spokesman for Transit Wireless said he was unable to comment on the program. None of the wireless companies returned calls for comment Thursday.

Subway riders said a louder commute was inevitable, but was worth the ability to make calls and surf the Web while underground.

“It’s annoying when people are on their phones talking loudly, but ultimately it’s a good thing to have more service,” said animator Danielle Ash, 34, of Park Slope, as she waited for a downtown C train Thursday afternoon. “It’s definitely convenient, especially if you’re in the subway and trying to meet up with someone.”

Bill Henderson of the MTA’s Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee said he didn’t expect the added noise to perturb too many riders, since the service would still only be intermittent and calls, and rides don’t typically last too long.

“There’s less of a legitimate expectation that you’ll have quiet on the subway,” Henderson said. “You’re pretty much resigned to the fact that anything can happen — especially in rush hour.”

Ricky Jones, of Flatbush, agreed, saying he didn’t think chatting straphangers would make his commute unbearable.

“The trains are already loud enough. It shouldn’t be an issue,” Jones, 22, said.

“I think that’s terrific, just in case of an emergency,” he added. “I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner.


Follow reporter Marc Beja on Twitter: @marc_beja

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