The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (aka Metro) has broken ground on a multi-phase project to bring cellular service and Wi-Fi to the Los Angeles subway system, the Los Angeles Daily News reports.
The system's Red Line, which runs from Union Station in Downtown LA to North Hollywood, will be the first line to receive the long-awaited upgrade after years of foot-dragging. Robert Fischer, Metro’s systems project manager, told the Daily News the project's contract was awarded nearly two years ago, but security fears and concerns about interfering with radio communication among first-responders delayed the project.
Metro’s contractor, InSite Wireless, LLC, will bring Wi-Fi and cell service to four Red Line stations — Westlake, Wilshire / Western, Wilshire / Vermont and Vermont / Sunset — before extending service to North Hollywood, and then to Pasadena and East LA on the Gold Line. The project will take an estimated $800,000 and two years to complete.
The small, much-maligned Metro is the most recent US city subway system to offer Wi-Fi and cell service. New York City began rolling out cell service in its subways back in 2011, and in 2013, it ramped up its efforts to include Wi-Fi and cell service in dozens of stations across the city. Boston and Washington DC have also experimented with underground cell service and Wi-Fi in recent years.
Fischer says Wi-Fi will only be available on station platforms and not on trains, while passengers should have continuous cell service in stations and on moving trains.
This development doesn't really change the fact that the Los Angeles Metro is small, agonizingly slow and stops running at 2AM on weekends. But it does give us hope that New York's wireless underground orchestra will be able to take its show on the road.