MTA moves toward riding a Wi-Fi wave

first_imgVillaraigosa, who brought the motion before the board, is striving to give Los Angeles the nation’s biggest wireless-fidelity network. Last week, he introduced plans to hook up the whole city with free Wi-Fi service. Wi-Fi allows computer users to access the Web without traditional phone connections. After bids were sought to bring Wi-Fi to the Orange Line, vendors said the service could be expanded to all MTA buses and subways with the price offset through advertisements, according to Richard Hunt, general manager for the San Fernando Valley Service Sector, an arm of the MTA. Popular in coffee shops, hotels and airports, Wi-Fi is slowly making its way into public transportation. Business commuters have surfed the Web aboard three express buses traveling from Temecula to Oceanside – about a one-hour trip – ever since the service began in spring 2005, said Riverside Transit Agency spokesman Bradley Weaver. Forget the cyber cafe; take the cyber commute. The MTA’s Orange Line and subway system may not always deliver a high-speed trip, but transit officials would like to offer commuters high-speed Internet service. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority board on Thursday directed the transit agency’s staff to do a feasibility study by April of how to provide the technology on its rail lines. All buses in the MTA’s fleet could be next in line for the service. “It’s an idea whose time has come,” said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Thursday. It cost $14,500 to install it on each bus and $70 a month to maintain, Weaver said. Wi-Fi connections are being installed now on 78 commuter buses that haul passengers on 40-minute rides across the Bay and San Mateo bridges. Oakland-based AC Transit is funding the service through a $390,000 grant from the Alameda County Congestion Management Agency, said spokesman Clarence Johnson. Some Red Line commuters on Thursday hesitated at the thought of using computers in the subway. “I wouldn’t use equipment like that here,” said Roger Wallace of Mission Hills. “I see people looking around for targets on the train, so I leave my expensive stuff at home.” Kim Stammler said Wi-Fi would help with emergencies. “You don’t have cell phone access on the subway,” the 48-year-old woman said. “You could still access emergency numbers through the Internet.” (818)713-3746160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more