Esme Vos of MuniWireless just sent us a copy of an RFEI (Request for Expressions of Interest) she received from the NYC MTA about their interest in adding Wi-Fi internet access aboard LIRR and Metro-North Railroads and in stations. The RFEI is just a preliminary step in what many New Yorkers (and NJ and CT residents) think is a sorely missing feature of the MTA’s rail lines, given how many other railroads both in the US and in the rest of the world offer Wi-Fi.
There’s no mention of “Free Wi-Fi”, but that’s to be expected as this type of service is both expensive to install and requires a lot of maintenance, both costs that the MTA is likely unwilling to bear. This means that if Wi-Fi is to become available on the LIRR and Metro-North Railroads, its going to be as a for-pay service to commuters and riders. The big question the MTA is looking to answers is: What’s the best infrastructure technology to use to provide Wi-Fi internet aboard trains.
The RFEI has lots of details about ridership numbers that I haven’t seen posted elsewhere, which should help any company understand the number of users each train is likely to have. Interestingly, Metro-North riders are more likely to have internet access at home or at work (92% vs 90%) and Metro-North riders are more likely to have mobile internet access on cell phones and PDAs (42% vs 27%).
Also not discussed at all is the fact that many LIRR stations already have Wi-Fi internet access as provided by Cablevision on Long Island, though riders must be Cablevision subscribers in order to access the network.
Request for Expressions of Interest in Broadband Wireless on Trains and in Stations http://d.scribd.com/ScribdViewer.swf?document_id=17219578&access_key=key-18mseo4j9ev7iwm6v7xs&page=1&version=1&viewMode=