Cell Phone Service For Subway Platforms?

Although the MTA’s deadline for bids to install cell phone service in all 277 of its underground stations passed earlier this week, service providers are still grappling with whether the installation would be worth the price tag.
A partnership of the country’s largest cell phone service carriers said that service only in stations and not tunnels would not make economic sense, according to published reports.
The winner of the bid would foot the bill for the design, installation, and operations and have a 10-year license to provide service, but would be forced to rent access to other providers. So far, Cingular Wireless, the nation’s largest carrier, along with Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile have all teamed up, with Sprint Nextel possibly jumping onboard, according to a New York Times article.
In a switch from their usual apprehension toward cell phone service in subways, the MTA cited phones as instant access for riders to report suspicious activity.
“If something is happening on a platform, it is important for people to communicate,” said City Councilman John Liu, chair of the Transportation Committee. “Enabling cell phones makes that much more sense in light of the fact that there are so few working pay phones on platforms.”
Whether the plan actually comes to fruition remains to be seen, but straphangers are already divided on the issue.
Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for the Straphangers Campaign, said he can see both sides of the issue and called for the MTA to host an opinion poll.
“[Installing cell phone service in subways] is a really good way to keep in touch with your family,” Russianoff said.
Still, subway riders should not have to be subjected to others’ conversations with family members, he said.
“During the day I have a 20-25 minute commute, and it’s the one part of the day when I can really read the paper or a book. I don’t know if I really want to have someone sitting next to me saying … ‘Please put the pasta on, honey.’”

More from Around New York