Wifi In The Subways

I’ve been writing about wifi in the subways since 2005. Ten+ years later we still don’t have ubiquitous connectivity in the NYC subway system.

On Friday, NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo and Tom Prendergast, Chairman of the MTA, announced plans to accelerate the rollout of TransitWireless to all 278 underground subway stations so that all of them have wifi by the end of 2016.

They also announced the addition of USB charging ports on subways cars with 200 getting them this year and another 400 getting them next year. And they also announced plans to replace the MetroCard system with a mobile payments system that uses smartphones and smartcards.

It is great that the MTA is finally getting serious about joining the 21st century. If you live in other parts of the world or the US, or if you are a New Yorker who travels a lot and uses public transportation (like me), you know that none of this is particularly cutting edge. Many transit systems around the world have had this technology for years.

I would like to applaud Governor Cuomo’s focus on infrastructure in the past year. The investments in LaGuardia, Penn/Moynihan Station, the new rail tunnel under the Hudson, the local regional rail systems, and now, the subways, are all critical investments that NYC has needed to make, but has not made, in this century.

But if we can go back to wifi in the subways for a minute, I am pretty disappointed that we are not being more aggressive with the wifi rollout. Why stop at the subway stations? Why not put wifi in all of the tunnels throughout the city. When you ride the subways, you spend more time in the tunnels than the stations. If we want our kids to be able to do their homework and their reading (and their coding) on the way home and the way to school, wiring the stations will not be enough. We need to wire up the entire system.

And the TransitWireless system is too hard to log into all of the time. It should be wide open wifi that all phones can connect to immediately without having to log in. I never use TransitWireless because it’s a pain in the rear to log into and by the time you log in, the train has arrived and you are on your way. Why do these companies who build out supposedly free wifi systems always make them so damn hard to access. If its free, make it wide open and easy to use.

Finally, while I’m on a rant, why don’t we have a single SSID, NYCWIFI, that all of these free and open systems use. So once I connect in one place, I will automatically connect in every place. Then local shops and restaurants could also use that SSID and we’d slowly but surely build a single massive open and free wifi network around NYC.

So, while I am pleased about the accelerated rollout of TransitWireless and the other big infrastructure investments that the Governor is pushing, I don’t think we are thinking nearly big enough yet. Internet connectivity is a requirement to do business, to learn, and to stay connected to friends and family. We need way more of it in NYC and we aren’t getting it fast enough.


Comments (Archived):

  1. JimHirshfield

    I never tried WiFi at subway stations. I get cell data at many stations. But it’s not ubiquitous.

    1. fredwilson

      that’s my point exactly. there is transitwireless in many stations and i bet it is lightly used because its such a pain to log in

      1. JimHirshfield

        Not disagreeing with you. I just never felt motivated to try WiFi…nor is it widely publicized.

  2. awaldstein

    Couldn’t agree more.We only got these in the subways in 2011!In 2013 they were only in 25% of the stops, still not everywhere especially in the boroughs.I kvetched about this back in 2013 in my post:Taking data to the streets… http://awe.sm/iPCOm

    1. fredwilson

      they are huge when they are in place. there are entire lines that don’t have them

      1. awaldstein

        so crazy.to think that as recently as 2011 you would be sitting sweltering in the subway with no information to take the local or wait for the express.we are living in alternative realities, hailing a car with a tap, standing at a stop in Brooklyn with no idea when the train is coming.

        1. Matt Zagaja

          One of the more interesting phenomena I’ve noticed is with the rise of smartphone apps that track public transit is how bus stops in Boston are almost never populated until 5 minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive.

          1. awaldstein

            as it should be. great share, thanks!

      2. Anne Libby

        The late 90s are here, they’re just not equally distributed.

      3. Jake Baker

        Very detailed and well researched article on the technical challenges facing a wider roll-out of arrival clocks on all lines: http://www.theatlantic.com/

        1. Glenn Nye

          In the interim, all MTA has to do is put one smartphone on each train. It could easily broadcast train location via cell signal anywhere above ground and could send a ping from many underground stations as well. That alone would provide a pretty good estimate of arrival times on any train/line. Or rather than wait for MTA we could just code an app that would allow users to crowdsource locations- running the app would share location for any train with a user riding and also allow each to see the estimated arrival locations for any train with users on board.

          1. Jake Baker

            Love the idea! Does anyone know if this is already basically being collected by Google/Waze data? I suspect some amount of location data is collected already…

    2. pointsnfigures

      Those are great. Have em here, and we have an app that is Uber like that shows where the buses are

      1. awaldstein

        connecting the disparate transportation modes is still a new york dream.

        1. PhilipSugar

          Here is what I cannot understand on the Northeast Corridor. Why is there not a train running every 15 minutes from BOS to WAS that you just use a smart card/phone to get on. Why does it have to slow down so much? Why don’t they coordinate with Boston Transit, Metro North, NJTransit, Septa, MARC, and VRE at major stops where they are timed and you just cross the platform and connect in two minutes.Why should it cost me $328 to go from Wilmington, DE to NYC roundtrip. If I am with somebody else we take a limo, for three people we are saving money.It should be an absolute no brainer for me to go from Elkton, MD to anywhere from Richmond, VA to Manchester, NH by train and get a local stop where I can get a zip car, Uber, or Lyft.Telcom companies found out when you reduce cost and increase supply demand explodes.That simply is not true. So I-95 is what it is.

          1. awaldstein

            I certainly don’t know but great questions.What I do know that for all the crap and stupid stuff like waiting to have your track light up then dashing for a seat on the NE Corridor trains. That lines like the L are invariably broken, it is remarkably easy to get around.Compared to SF or LA which I know well, NY is a dream of efficiency in every possible way.Easy to have 4 meetings in different locations some in Brooklyn and get there in a snap.So broken. So wonderful. Both.

          2. Jake Baker

            100% this – I can leave my apartment in NYC at 6:43, catch a 7 train and be in Baltimore 2h12m later or DC 2h50m later. On Acela, it’s admittedly pricy, but it’s still a pretty amazing system. Talking to people in LA, you basically can schedule two meetings a day if they are across town. I can almost do a meeting in NYC in AM then a meeting late afternoon in DC no trouble…

          3. PhilipSugar

            How great would it be if they left every 15 minutes and connected with the locals so you could literally get anywhere? Not debating if better.

          4. Jake Baker

            It would be epic. On a slightly different scale, my dad went to Copenhagen for a conference and came back just in awe of the fact that the subway there (a) arrived and left every two minutes like clockwork in every station and (b) the stations were just sparkling and clean and beautiful. Just so interesting to see the different execution of mass-transit and infrastructure across the world.

          5. PhilipSugar

            Minneapolis is pretty good in US. You don’t get out of the airport or Mall of America clean and safe runs every 10 minutes with a station schedule.When people say they want equality, mass transit is the ultimate in that. Get it clean and safe and everybody taking it. That’s equality. Have it shitty, dingy, not reliable etc, that I’m willing to be taxed for.

          6. LE

            Why don’t they coordinate with….Why is there not a train…Why does it have to slow down so much…Why don’t they …(and so on)It’s not going to get better these types of things it will only get worse. To much brainpower diverted into startups and coding. Of course it’s not like the best and the brightest are attracted to mass transit of of course (if I can be so obviously judgmental). Look at those GE ads that they are running (part to drive the stock price but still..)To my point though the change in the allocation of labor, or at least a golden part of it, has been pretty substantial in the last 10 years. To many startups (and well educated labor) chasing to many unimportant dreams. To much “code is the answer to almost everything”.Not that this hasn’t happened before. It did with medicine but at least there was a governor on how many people could get into that profession.

          7. JLM

            .The reason there is no high speed rail (HSR) is Amtrak. And Congress. And the states.There is HSR (200 mph easily and as much as 375 mph) in Austria, Belgium, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Poland, Portugal, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden,Taiwan, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States and Uzbekistan.We should, at least, be as competitive as Uzbekistan.China has almost 20,000 miles of HSR.From an engineering perspective it is easy — railbed has to be there and the prime movers have to move. It is not an engineering problem and hasn’t been for three decades. It is a funding and political challenge. Only.It is also incredibly efficient to ship freight on HSR and freight is the big hole plugger — not enough passengers on a single train? Unhook passenger cars, hook up freight cars. Move people and freight long distances at high speeds.Create hubs (Richmond, DC, Philadelphia, NYC, Boston) and then serve local on a hub and spoke system. Go fast to Boston and get a local north, south, west out of Boston but have it perfectly timed.Make it, admin, as fast as McDonald’s processing a three Big Mac order — 2 seconds.It is all political.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          8. PhilipSugar

            I should point out that was a rhetorical question.

          9. JLM

            .What is a rhetorical question?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          10. ShanaC

            Because getting multiple agencies to get along is a nightmare from civil engineers. Going interstate…oy

        2. obarthelemy

          I hate driving, so I’m heavily public transportation dependent. They have 2 things in my country that don’t seem so widespread:1- rather good operator-specific apps. My city transportation authority will let me know when a bus is next pulling at my stop via SMS, a QR code, or their app. They’ll compute an itinerary between 2 addresses.2- open data and an effort to use it. My region (12k sq. miles) puts all routes and traffic events from all operators in publicly-accessible databases, and funds an app to use that info, which computes routes regionally same as locally, combining train/metro/bus/boat, public/private, traffic incidents…That, and having frequent, reliable, clean, close, safe transport, is way more important than Wifi.

          1. awaldstein

            “my country’ is where if you don’t mind me asking?

          2. obarthelemy

            France. Lots o’ taxes but.. sometimes… they’re put to good use ^^

          3. awaldstein

            AhhBig fan of French wine, especially from the Jura. Been blogging about them for years.And for transportation, Veleb in Paris was the first bike share I ever saw and used. Way before here or most anywhere.

  3. obarthelemy

    Wifi on the metro is fine. But metro rides represent 0.5% of the time I’m out of data+wifi coverage, and it’s by far not the most inconvenient of those times. So for me, wifi on the tube doesn’t move the needle much: I still need a lot of stuff on local storage. It still need a real smartphone with ample storage (or an SD slot) for media and smart apps that cache content like gReader Pro for RSS feeds on Android. Ditto for batteries: I’m not going to jostle for position next to the plugs, fish out a cable, then unplug in a rush when the train pulls in. I’ll get a phone with a real battery that last a long, full day.The issue is not the infrastructure at this point. It’s the devices. Stop being cutesy and start being practical…

  4. William Mougayar

    In Toronto, only 4 stations routes have it, but it’s being rolled out gradually til 2017.Actually Twitter Canada was sponsoring it this month- “Passengers with Twitter accounts will automatically connect, and will remain connected for 12 hours while in TTC stations with Wi-Fi. Those without Twitter accounts will need to create a Twitter account to access the network.”

  5. awaldstein

    Blog post topic Fred.Wifi makes me thinks of beacons. Beacons make me think how location is a free datapoint but what beacons provide is a cross reference to proximity which will not be free most likely at least initially.Lots of companies, including Google are playing in this space, building beacons, development platforms, apis and the like.Where do you see this going?(how’s that for an easy one?)

  6. John Belo

    We’ve had WiFi in London tube stations for a while now but personally the use of contactless debit/credit cards to pay for journeys (and therefore making our Oyster cards redundant) has been by far the best improvement made to my commute.

  7. Andy Wolber

    Your call for a single SSID reminded me of the http://www.openwireless.org initiative. I’d love to see that more widely adopted!

  8. jason wright

    this sounds quite typical of US public infrastructure. lamentable. far too much money spent on the military industrial complex over the decades.one wonders how the US became such a powerful nation in the twentieth century. the answer of course is communism.who has the ear of Cuomo and Prendergast on tech issues? do they read this blog?does Veniam have a role to play here?i like public transport, especially trains and subways and trams. i hate cars, and how they dehumanise people.

  9. Anne Libby

    Go Fred.And as someone whose home internet died on Friday — can’t be fixed until Monday — what can be done to make NYC broadband service better, in general?

    1. JLM

      .Cell phone hotspot?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    2. Matt Zagaja

      At Berkman we have a group that is studying this and working to encourage the creation of municipal fiber networks. Some good write-ups from Prof. Susan Crawford’s Medium site include this most recent one: https://medium.com/backchan….

      1. Anne Libby


    3. ShanaC

      A lot of traffic rerouting to dig up streets for fios?

  10. JLM

    .While I mourn the failure of NYC to provide all the Internet for free that anyone can possibly want — home, subway, tunnels — perhaps the play is just to buy a WiFi enabled car?I am in the market for a new car to replace faithful Big Blackie, a 2002 Lexus SUV which has been more dependable than gravity. In the process I was surprised to learn how pervasive the provision of WiFi is in new vehicles.My favorite feature is that the service is only $10/month on my existing At&T plan. Wow!Here is a great article on the subject: https://www.mainstreet.com/…My favorite is the Jeep Cherokee which is a $30K SUV in its stripped clean version.This is, apparently, a 2015 new car phenomenon and some of the car makers are trying to hawk their own apps and OnStar mojo but the most democratic offerings are just “go see the guys at AT&T” which makes it pretty damn easy.When I chatted with AT&T office they said a big percentage of their new business is people hooking up WiFi in pickup trucks. This is, after all, Texas.Does Tesla not have built in WiFi?I read an article that said 86% of cars sold in America would have fully integrated WiFi by the 2017 model year.My favorite app is a small contractor who has a new Chevy Silverado four door pickup who now literally runs his business out of the back seat. His only complaint? He has 1gig Internet service at home and his truck is slower.Is this a great country or what? Is this a great time to be alive?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. William Mougayar

      How about a Tesla X?

    2. pointsnfigures

      wireless charing tech is coming to cars in 2017

      1. JLM

        .It is already here in Chevy right now (#1 son just bought a dentist’s office on wheels which has it) and it is here for electric cars themselves. You don’t even have to plug a car in any more.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    3. Matt Zagaja

      Sadly automobiles are not really efficient transportation in some of the denser cities the world. I do miss my Volvo that I’ve left in Connecticut but do not regret leaving it behind. In hell some people are forced to drive through Harvard Square. I gleefully enjoy walking past the slow moving traffic on my walk to work in the morning.

  11. LIAD

    We have WiFi in underground stations in London but not on the carriages themselves or in the tunnels. It’s a pain in the ass. Loose connection the minute the train moves, spend half the time cursing and waiting to reconnect for 20 seconds at the next stop before the train moves again.It’s like they built it broken deliberately. So they could tick a box about WiFi on the underground but in reality its a crock.

    1. William Mougayar

      This comes to mind

    2. Simone

      perhaps it was built in mind with the often travel disruptions, so you are expected to spend more time in the stations rather than in the carriage, going from point A to point B. so many things in London are just tick a box when you think about it

  12. William Mougayar

    When there is no WiFi, do this:

  13. bogorad

    Here in Moscow we’ve got wifi in 100% of subway cars. It’s free, but you have to register your device once, then click-through an ads-infused “landing page” every time you connect to the network. There also are some ads inserted into HTML. But you can bypass all that if you buy a “subscription”, for a symbolic fee of 99 Rub (~$1.5 or the cost of 3 rides) per month. This way you get near-immediate access and frictionless roaming between subway lines. No wifi on the platforms though. Access points are placed in the first and last cars of each train, so the signal is better there. The system works rather well, the speeds are sufficient for youtube streaming and the like.Here’s the link to the company providing this service:http://maximatelecom.ru/en#/Сellphone coverage (3G-only for now) is available on most of the platforms, and in some 30% of the tunnels. The deployment has stalled since 2011 but seems to pick up pace.

    1. fredwilson

      There are some good things to study and learn from in this. Thanks for sharing

      1. bogorad

        BTW, they claim to come to NYC this year! (link in Russian, sorry)https://roem.ru/15-12-2015/…

    2. William Mougayar

      Do you know how many users have signed up to this?

        1. William Mougayar

          thanks. wow. Pretty impressive stats!1.2 million unique users/day, 900 base stations installed, 25% of passengers use WiFi.

          1. Richard

            Any feel for wifi capacity in ststions and stadiums?

    3. Kirsten Lambertsen

      We’ve lost the WiFi Race 😉 Seriously interesting, though.

    4. jason wright

      funny, i never hear about this sort of thing when the western media is bashing Putin and his ‘regime’.

    5. ShanaC

      What was the impetus to do this

      1. bogorad

        Capitalism, I suppose 😉

  14. aminTorres

    All the problems the subway system has in NYC will get better when they clean it up.All of them.Cleanliness is the MTAs version of O’Neill’s safety focus at Alcoa. http://www.businessweek.com…Wifi is awesome in the subway, that is axiomatic but it won’t have nearly the same impact.If whoever runs the MTA focuses on cleanliness, more people will use the subways, workers will feel better working there, the entire image of the MTA will change and this positive change will ripple to other areas.

    1. Tom Labus

      I walk everywhere in the city. The High Line is my route up and down town.

    2. William Mougayar

      I agree. And proper air circulation & air conditioning are important too.

      1. awaldstein

        trains are air conditioned. stations are not and will most likely never be.

        1. William Mougayar

          Yep, waiting in stations underground sucks when it’s hot. Why “never be”?

          1. awaldstein

            The list of things to be done in NY is massive and I just can’t see this rising to the top anytime vaguely soon.Hey, wasn’t that long ago that there were no signs telling you when the trains were coming, no air, nothing.And in the 70s and 80s, the subways like the parks were a different reality crime wise for certain.

          2. LE

            Non contained air flow HVAC nightmare.

          3. JLM

            .Not really.Put a chilled salt/water line in the concrete and don’t use air. Make the enormous amount of concrete into a heat source/sink. Chill is just a thermodynamic state of heat. Don’t panic at the word heat.Tap into the constant 45-55F temperature at depth below the stations for a good source of energy for a heat pump.I can get this going by Thursday if you want.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          4. LE

            And Mexico will pay for it!

          5. JLM

            .Hell, yes. And why not?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          6. LE

            In his rally the other night he actually invented a new way to emphasize and popularize that concept.He said “Who is going to pay for it!!” (to the crowd) and they chanted back “Mexico!!!”. Then he said it again. And they chanted back. Then a third and maybe 4th time.All with the same reply getting louder and louder.He then said “wow that’s the first time I did that, that worked well I am going to do it again!!”. (Something like that) but he was really please with himself. So to me this is going to become a catch phrase.I believe there is a really good chance that in some way Mexico (where Mexico can just be a placeholder for really any dream that others dismiss) will “pay for it”. If it is actually reasonably possible to build for the intended purpose obviously.Why do I feel that way? Well first how do you define “pay”?You could actually get them to “pay” in any number of ways by offsetting the money they pay for example or maybe not having them pay for something they used to pay for, or by hiking some other payment they make the list is endless. Creative disclosure and accounting. Trump is a master of using words to make things happen. If my brain can figure out a way to make this statement “true enough” there is no doubt that Trump will be able to do this. In other words what you call something and what it actually is can even legitimately be two different things.

          7. LE

            Honestly any “wealthy” New Yorker (who is in certain types of business) simply needs to have a full time car at their disposal which is easily justified as a business expense. Sure in some cases travel takes longer but when you consider that it can be a working space that changes everything. I know that these NYers love that subway and think it’s cool but quite frankly I think for some of them it’s a holdover from perhaps their poor college days and/or the fact that there isn’t as much social proof to spending money on what would be perceived as a luxury limo (even if it’s not a limo).Likewise just like with jet sharing there could most likely be a dedicated shareable elite fleet of drivers and cars (with appropriate overflow availability) that could service this market. Uber/Lyft isn’t the answer to everything.

          8. William Mougayar

            a very civil engineer talking 🙂

          9. LE

            The engineering and feasibility study for a project like this alone would take, what, 4 years?

          10. William Mougayar

            Hmm. It’s not that bad in Toronto, Montreal, London or Paris. I wonder what the air quality and germs particles counts are like down there. This should be monitored and displayed.

          11. LE

            I’d be curious when those were built vs. NYC subway.Seem’s Canada’s first was started in 1949:https://www.ttc.ca/About_th

          12. William Mougayar

            London and Paris started in the early 1900’s for sure . Montreal’s 1966. Toronto was ’49.

          13. pointsnfigures

            too expensive

      1. Mike M.

        Darrrr–ylll! Darrr-yllll!

    3. Lawrence Brass

      There is something gothic about the NYC subway, the riveted naked steel bars, the caged stairs, the wooden benches, the ordered chaos, even the smell. Cleaning it up a bit will be good, but I believe that if it is redesigned, moderized, sanitized it would be like killing a part of the city soul.Cell 3G/4G repeaters and antennas in the tunnels is what is used in the metro in Santiago, achieving almost 90% coverage. One of the telcos wired the main line first, then the rest had to follow. My guess is that either the MTA is extremely bureaucratic as @Salt Shaker points out or the telcos are colluded to avoid the investment.Stand clear of the closing doors please.

      1. PhilipSugar

        How hard is it to clean each station each night. With their budget that should be a no brainer.

      2. fredwilson

        I love the recorded sounds of the subwayhttps://soundcloud.com/fred…

        1. Lawrence Brass

          I would not change my Manhattan onboarding experience for nothing, JFK Airtrain, Jamaica Station E train, 50th Street and into the jungle. Magic.You must have seen this..http://video.newyorker.com/

        2. jason wright

          i didn’t hear much chit chat. do people talk on the NYC subway system, or is it the mass silence of strangers on a train?

        3. JLM

          .Replete with folk cramming for their exam?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      3. Mordy Kaplinsky

        The biggest challenge of wiring the tunnels is that unlike a other metro systems which have the full night to schedule maintenance and upgrades, the NYC system runs 24/7 so wiring the tunnels would shut the lines down.This would have to be done on weekends with track upgrade and maintenance, which involves the union work rules to be modified (no small task). The other option is more long term but involves coordinating the deployment with the CBTC signal upgrade, which at the current rate of deployment will take around 2 decades.The stations however can be deployed with zero disturbance to train operations.Then there’s also the funding and bureaucracy issues, areas in which the MTA is a grade-A offender.

        1. Lawrence Brass

          Good point. As you mention, most other metro systems shut at night regularly.

    4. PhilipSugar

      Agree totally, that and connecting the different systems.

  15. zakumanoff

    The single SSID is hugely important. I love google Fi, but if I have to log in to every hotspot I’m not going to bother. I just read my cached NYT and go about my day offline.

  16. Jason Sharpee

    I’m guessing nyc will have self driving car/bus express routes before the subway system is straightened out there. A lot cheaper to maintain as well.The routes will be free of single purpose directional lanes, no traffic lights, and no taxis standing.

  17. Justin Fyles

    What do you think the limiting factors are here? Is it bureaucracy? Or do they have a complete lack of understanding of network infrastructure?If it’s the latter, is there anything we can do as a community to help educate them? (I suppose this blog is a big start :))

    1. Simone

      or a complete lack of motivation to offer a service for free, just to do good to the citizens? 🙂

  18. Brad Lindenberg

    Couldn’t agree more!!They should add LTE hotspots to subway carriages and in stations. Wifi is anoying. It doesn’t work well in airports, why would it work any better in subways, and are they making they connecting the subways carriages or just the stations?

  19. pointsnfigures

    Chicago has cell tech on two lines right now, Red and Blue. It’s nice. Charging is nice, but having wireless charging would be even better. Telco’s bought and paid for it.

  20. Vlad Preoteasa

    I would love to hear your high level thoughts on how one should design a system that can simultaneously and asynchronously accommodate millions of users all on the city’s back and at its pace. Also, who should pay for it and how can it be regularly updated to keep up with changing wifi standards?I think that the expectation is great, but the technology isn’t. Pulling it off while ensuring a premium user experience has alluded many. There’s a reason why wifi at the airport sucks.

  21. Salt Shaker

    The MTA is currently operating at a $9.8B deficit on its current capital improvement plan. The MTA has always operated like a fiscal train wreck. That said, any long time resident (or visitor) knows the system has had vast improvements in the past 20+ yrs., from renovated stations, air conditioned cars, better/clearer audio announcements, LCD displays on train arrivals, etc. The new 2nd Ave line will unquestionably be a godsend for anyone working/living on the UES.My biggest beef is in the cutback in train frequency. The trains just don’t run frequently enough. I’m quite certain if/when the MTA launches smartcards we’ll also see the launch of peak/off peak pricing, too.The MTA is an enormous system and a bureaucratic nightmare. I’d much rather see Trump run for President of the MTA than Pres of U.S. That seems like something he’d be really good at, though I’m quite certain “Mr. Everyman” hasn’t rode the rails since, well, at least his first bankruptcy.

    1. awaldstein

      Yup–if everything ran like the 4,5,6 or 1,2,3 life would be grand.It most certainly doesn’t.

  22. Nir Z. Pengas

    I’m neither here nor there regarding connectivity underground. There is something nice about being out of touch for a few minutes. Even now many people’s faces are looking down at their phones without a connection at all.Prioritizing this, I would much rather see the MTA wire up the cars and the stations with WIFI and sensors. It’s ingenious that by 2016 a passenger on a platform has no clue on when the next train will arrive and it’s capacity.A better experience would be to know which station that train is in right now (not just an estimate on it’s arrival which changes frequently) and how dense the cars are (or which cars are less populated and where to stand on the platform to occupy them).I think the MTA, us the citizens of NYC and the incredible amount of people coming in every day for work and tourism will benefit greatly from a smarter system. This should include temperature, humidity, air quality, noise, crowd density etc.Maybe even rat population.

  23. Thor Snilsberg

    True that our iconic subway system lags behind in many technical categories, including wifi. Declining state support and rapidly increasing debt service (20% of operating expenditures) are holding up lots of improvements.Anyone know who operates current wifi and what is stopping the MTA from contracting full wifi implementation with a private provider?

  24. Guy Lepage

    I’m with you Fred. I was shocked when I moved here and found out there was not any wifi throughout the entire system let alone full cellular coverage. How is NYC supposed to become a tech center if they don’t have basic access. I’m from Vancouver and we have not only wifi but full cellular service through the entire system. The city is also working very hard to put install a free wireless system throughout the entire downtown core.

  25. Matt Zagaja

    In Boston and DC the wiring of public transit with cell service is a profit center for the public transit system and also a marketing point used by carriers that offer it (see http://bostinno.streetwise….. Not sure if NYC has a similar thing but I imagine there is pretty big incentive not to offer free wifi for fear of eating up this golden goose.

  26. LE

    NYCWIFI, that all of these free and open systems useI would be surprised to find out that people aren’t spoofing and broadcasting that left and right in order to intercept people’s communications. It’s actually a fairly well known trick. Likewise if you are connecting on your device to any wifi network and it is not configured correctly there are several ways that someone can gain access to your device. I would think these networks are particularly fertile hunting grounds.https://en.wikipedia.org/wi

  27. Armin Roșu

    Has anyone tried / seen a metro network use Broadband over Power Lines?Then routers could be installed in the cars themselves. This would ensure a constant connection and no hassle installing and maintaining the internet network as well.Cars are serviced at depots and routers can be serviced there too. Throughput might not be enough, not sure, that’s why I’m asking.

  28. JAJones

    Back in my day all we could do on the subway was avoid eye contact and stare at the Dr Zizmor ads but alas even that has been taken away from us. http://www.nytimes.com/glog

  29. panterosa,

    My daughter loves the London Underground, the swipe ease, the phone working, clean, people talking in low voices. Me too. Can we have all that in NYC AND the Wifi? BTW she reads on the train, on book or phone, school reading.We love the new Wifi hubs going up in NYC too. Love Veniam car wifi too.

    1. Simone

      it is overcrowded, very expensive (like all transportation on UK), breaks down often and goes on strike even more often than it breaks down. but it is clean and reliable when it works and I can’t imagine the city without it, people rely heavily on public transportation. from other comments I do realise it is better than NY. benchmarks..

  30. Nigel Sharp

    Well shall we enable the terrorists or not I thought is the question of WiFi and Mobile signals on subway/metro systems worldwide. I think their is a genuine rational fear that unlike Airports, the security going through a public transit system such as the one in New York is a breeze for any terrorists with an Raspberry Pi, WiFi dongle and some explosive to pull off a mass synchronized attack across these types of invaluable transit systems.Now I know you will tell me there are a 100 other ways of achieving the same thing, and we can’t live and operate in a state of fear. But I for one would like to see a much better quality of surveillance system in place, and a communication jamming system or similar installed incase a major incident was to occur, and at least someone could press the button to turn off all the easy enabling systems…

    1. JLM

      .I can assure you that in the event of a terrorist attack in the US there is a plan to knock out the entire cell phone system and Internet in the target city. Guaranteed.There is not much consensus that a terrorist attack is impacted by the Internet but there is much focused on the cell phone system.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. Nigel Sharp

        I agree but with the populous and so many systems being reliant on the cell and internet systems I wonder if they really would shut ’em down (these are not military centric operations but living working cities),Regarding mobile comms a sim card at least offers some kind of barrier to terrorist entry because ID is needed to purchase one (I understand this is close to trivial, but let me challenge you to think on where you could get a pack of untraceable SIM cards? which would work on a 3G device plugged into this theoretical Raspberry Pi Bomb), vs just having to walk down to a supermarket with a tech section to pick up all the pieces you need to get a programmable microcontroller device to connect to the WiFi. Heck they come ready packaged as Home Automation kits for turning lights on an off from your phone….

      2. Lawrence Brass

        The internet shall prevail.We shall fight in the subway, we shall fight in the streets, we shall fight in the ducts, we shall fight in the roofs… we shall never surrender.The NSA must already have on/off switches at the comm and datacenters.

        1. JLM

          .The larger question is this — do we still know how to fight?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          1. Lawrence Brass

            Not an easy question and I wonder if the answer is proper for this bar. At some point in history there was honour in the battle, some rules, now things are dirtier. You blow people remotely shooting missiles from an UAV or you convince a mule to wear a bomb vest and blow people (remotely) for you. New technology, new tricks, no eye contact. I think the elite soldier, special forces, marines, rangers, clever yihadist, is able and ready to fight. These people love what they do, prepare well and can stand and understand pain. The rest, including the general public are softer now, spoiled. IMO.But here is another question — Do we still know how to avoid a fight?

          2. JLM

            .Our guys are better than ever and that’s why it’s a shame they have not been released to thin the ISIS herd. They, ISIS, are not an army.It takes a couple of generations to build a real army, a modern army.They are a rabble and they can’t fight in a combined arms, air-sea-land, modern battlespace. This is where we should push the fight and force it to be fought.At the highest level of technical expertise, casualty replacement on the fly, strained combat leadership, tactically taxing, and re-supply.Make them shoot, move, communicate while destroying their men, mobility, and communications.Make them fight with their supply train.You bring up a very good question.Soldiers hate wars because they know what they look like at the lowest level. Ugly on an ape.Funny thing. The key to never going to war is to have such a strong military that nobody ever wants to pick a fight. If they do, we want to set an exemplar that the world says, “Not good.”Sweat in training to avoid bleeding in combat.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    2. obarthelemy

      breathable air also “enables terrorists”. Should we cut that off ?

  31. Douglas Crets

    I read this as I was topping up my Hong Kong metro card by tapping my NFC enabled phone against it.

  32. rdschouw

    I find the LTE rollout into the subway stations more interesting than WIfi personally. It is also seamless if you’re on one of the participating carriers.Now the problem with connectivity in tunnels is that the MTA is unwilling to shutdown train traffic for the installation of necessary antennas and supporting equipment. I know carriers are willing to make it happen like it does in some other cities, but it is the MTA who is not cooperating here.

  33. Dorian Benkoil

    Here’s an irony. Reading this on the subway, and it got bounced off my Android ‘s browser window by Transit Wireless Wifi asking me to “Click to Connect” when we pulled into a station, so had to go find it again. D’oh!

  34. Nigel Walsh

    It’s here in the UK, well at stations at least. People talk less.

  35. lisa hickey

    I disagree. The biggest argument for putting WiFi on the subways it’s a way to start closing the gaps—the wealth inequality gap, the inequality gap, the income gap. You are assuming that these “kids” get access to Wifi in order to study as much as you do—that is, anytime they want it when they are not in the subway. That may or may not be true. Only by making access to communication and education and learning available to people consistently can we make the world not just more equal, but more fair.

  36. William Mougayar

    Exactly. Pretend it’s 1995. Internet addiction is now an official mental disorder, and you can go to rehab for it. But some patients refuse to go if there is no WiFi.

  37. Kirsten Lambertsen

    While I like the sentiment… people have been ignoring each other on the subway from Day 1. Newspapers, books, WalkMans, etc. This will not introduce a new level of isolation.Once you’re riding the subway several times a day, every single day, for years, you don’t feel obligated to ‘take it all in.’ Sometimes, it’s necessary to transform it a little, at least in your bubble. After all these years, I still like to look around and imagine what other people in my subway car are doing today, but I don’t ride it multiple times a day, every day any more.Plus, if you add up all the hours that a regular subway rider spends there, it’s a lot. Being able to send an email or text, or whatever it may be, could really make people’s lives much easier. In NYC, that’s always a good thing.

  38. Simone

    I can’t get enough of this video, although I prefer the clean version, without the 3 guys. I am sure they are perfectly nice people, but in this context and in contrast with the comedian’s persona and presence, the 3 guys made me think of ‘Idiocracy’ movie, the guy in the black sweater actually looks like the main character.

  39. fredwilson

    With a due respect Charlie a lot of kids commute an hour to school and an hour home on the subway. Some do more than that.I’m all for downtime when its appropriate but making it possible for kids to work on the way to and home from school would be hugeThe same is true of working people

  40. LE

    Take a break on the subway.To people who enjoy working, saying this is like telling a sports fan to “take a break” and not do what they don’t find work but enjoyable.

  41. JLM

    .Haha, good one.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  42. ShanaC

    My fiancé stole my computer for a week on suspicion of this…I think the world just changed

  43. JLM

    .Kids on the train are looking at FB, posting to Insta, hooking up, texting, buying dope, and looking at porn. Sorry.They are not studying calculus, composing Haikus or reading the Bible.Sorry.They may be checking out The Gap but it is a different type of gap.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  44. PhilipSugar

    See my comment above. Making it clean and efficient are the table stakes to “equality”. I absolutely hate the word “fair” I won’t let my kids use it.

  45. lisa hickey

    Now that I agree with! But subways 1) have a precedent for having WiFi access in other cities, so we know it’s not that difficult and 2) it is also a system that currently separates the richer from the poorer (as a matter of general principal).

  46. lisa hickey

    And you know this how? That is not actually my experience. *Some* people will of course always use the internet for those things you mention. And if I want to look for those people, sure, I can find them. But why deny the people who DO want to work hard the access they need to succeed?

  47. fredwilson

    Or cramming for a test they have in an hour

  48. pixiedust8

    People using electricity are sometimes using it to do nefarious things and waste time. Does that mean we shouldn’t make it available if we can?

  49. Lells

    As someone who rides public transportation everyday (in Chicago, but same thing, right?) I see people studying and reading online news/e-books all the time, certainly more than looking at porn (which thankfully I’ve never seen someone do on the bus/train).Of course, a large portion of people are playing games, texting or on FB/Instagram, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing either. Staying current and connected with friends/family/coworkers on-the-go has plenty of its own benefits.

  50. Simone


  51. Simone

    I didn’t mean in any way to get you through the trouble to repost the link. thank you though, it is a great 4 mins and I appreciate the philosophical side even more than the humour. our positioning in regards with tech and a potential duty to contribute.

  52. LE

    to get you through the trouble to repost the linkCharlie doesn’t work to hard so no need to apologize.To wit:Read a book. Look at your fellow sardines. Read the ads. Give your eyes and brain a break. Breathe. Meditate. Share some organic bread

  53. LE

    Further to your point, my guess is that those are the special and motivated kids that would actually use that time to study. Otherwise why (and I know very little about NYC schools so this is speculation) does it take the so long to commute to school.

  54. Erin

    Do we know if wifi is safe for children? Adults? I love the Internet, and I get just as excited as the next avc-er about innovation and infrastructure, but aren’t there studies that link too much wifi exposure to early dementia and cancers? Especially sensitive are children’s developing brains if we’re going to talk about them… I can’t be the only one who’s heard these concerns. Maybe I should appoint myself the avc wifi scientist and start doing some digging around for some studies. I do understand people experience a low-grade agitation when there is nothing to be distracted by- that’s a legitimate ego move and a long-documented source of human suffering. Inability to sit peacefully with the present moment is part of the human condition- let’s not confuse that with the need to do business on a train.

  55. LE

    You probably don’t even know this but a long time ago on AVC a video that you posted (of Warren Zevon singing Excitable Boy) was the seed that was planted that made me fork to enjoying youtube music videos. I now probably have discovered hundreds of them (all of mainly old music from the 70’s and 80’s). And it all started here, on AVC, with you posting that video many years ago. In the book that I will never write I plan to mention this fact.

  56. LE

    I will watch that one thanks. If you watch enough of these it’s easy to spot when the artist is having fun and is happy and when they are not. This has probably always been obvious to you (since you are a musician and have a knowledge of music which I don’t) but to me it wasn’t until I started to study these.. I also enjoy the production values of some of these (and notice often the lack of same) (the video shot blocking or whatever it’s called) as an art in itself. And to what extent the other band members are featured vs. just the narcissistic lead singer.Here is one of my latest favorites (and I was not a Frampton fan before this): Good sound, good shots, good production value. Awesome to see all of them playing guitar together.https://www.youtube.com/wat

  57. lisa hickey

    I completely agree that making the subways clean and efficient would be a huge step forward for everyone. But I don’t think it’s either/or, I think it’s yes/and.

  58. Lawrence Brass

    Oh man, I hear Peter Frampton and am transported to some good and younger days, what a life.Meant replying to LE.. can’t fix it.Happy Sunday.

  59. JLM

    .No doubt.Choir boys reviewing the Christmas pageant getting the words down tight. Altar boys reviewing their lines for midnight Mass. Kids writing to their grandmothers. Angels planning their next trip to the nursing home to sing to the older folk. The ones who volunteer at the hospice checking up on their patients. Even the ones learning Arabic so they can better assist in the assimilation of Syrian refugees.But mostly, dopey kids who are neither in college nor interested in much more than sex, drugs, and rock and roll.I am certain the answer to America’s inequalities, all of them, are to be found in a WiFi channeling subway car hurtling from point A to point B.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  60. ShanaC

    Bigger issue- why are they carrying around heavy textbooks to begin with

  61. JLM

    .Haha, I love it.The ones who “want” to succeed will go to the library or SBUX and get on the Internet. They will find a way. They will not have the only thing between them and success be the presence of WiFi on a subway train hurtling under the East River.I could be wrong. This might be just the ticket.Even if it were true, the more cost effective situation would be to improve the Internet where it already is not to create a billion dollar boondoggle on the slim chance that the next Einstein is not going to realize his potential unless and until there is WiFi on the subway.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  62. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Nonetheless, we should all be eating organic locally produced bread 🙂

  63. PhilipSugar

    I live in the real world. You say this is my priority get it done first, and then get the next one done. Saying I just want it all means you just get none.

  64. Rob Larson

    Yes, we know its safe. The type of electromagnetic radiation found in radio waves, cell phones, wi-fi, and visible light should not cause any health impact, positive or negative, and many studies have confirmed that it indeed does not. (With the exception of mood disorder that can come from not seeing enough visible light.)The only type of radiation that can theoretically or actually be harmful are the high frequency, high energy ranges (uv, xray, gamma) and stuff like alpha particles.

  65. Nigel Sharp

    Well this is misleading, trust me Microwaves which is what a cell phone / WiFi signals are made up of, can be totally lethal!…. They run at the exact frequencies which are known for being able to boil water (or bags of water a.k.a. Human beings), there is a specific home appliance called a Microwave named after them!… The safety factor comes from the power levels being deployed for WiFi and Cellphone usage and the ability for us to convert and dissipate this radiation as heat for the most part.

  66. Rob Larson

    Um, sure microwaves are a heat source, and any heat source could potentially be dangerous in extreme doses. However… concluding “therefore microwaves are dangerous” is simply wrong. Exactly zero people die each year from exposure to radiation from their microwaves, and the same number die from exposure to radiation from WiFi routers, cell phones, and radio waves.When people wonder about the safety of this type of radiation, they are not asking, “what if it starts to get warm and I’m not smart enough to take off my coat?” They are worried about unseen medical risks, since they know that some types of radiation can cause cancer, therefore what about other types of radiation? But these common types of radiation are in fact safe.You could strap a cell phone to one ear and a WiFi router to the other, turn both on continuous transmission, and you would incur zero additional risk of dying from cancer or (to your point) heat stroke.

  67. Nigel Sharp

    Well let me know how you feel a couple of months into wearing your WiFi router hat.My point was that it is misleading to say the “type” of EM radiation found in WiFi, cell phones etc is not harmful, which is far from the case – the type is dangerous but current safety provisions keep us safe through limiting the output power (although I have no idea how well this is actually regulated).Still for the most part there are plenty of dangerous forms of radiation around, so maybe we should just leave the advice at go get a radiation pack to see if your house is filling up with radioactive gases that seep out of the ground worldwide…

  68. pixiedust8

    I see kids studying on the train all the time. However, I’m guessing (based on your posts) that you actively seek out the negative in the world. Or you’re 90 years old.

  69. JLM

    .”People” are paying for their own electricity? No?When you pay for your own stuff, you can do whatever you want. Right?I just don’t want to get the invoice for your doing goofy stuff. Unreasonable?Pay for your own shit and get as goofy as you want. I will lead the applause.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  70. JLM

    .So the kids studying on the train are currently doing it Old School, right? Why change these winners?From your posts, I suspect you are eleven?That’s not polite. Is it?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  71. pixiedust8

    Um, people go many places where they are not directly paying for the electricity they use. But you sound fun at parties.

  72. JLM

    .Man went to the moon but that isn’t the normal frame of reference, no? Most folks are paying for their electricity. Even when you are at SBUX glomming on with your charger, you’re paying.Opposites attract? Cause you sound a little like a jerk — hey, I didn’t really say that. Sorry.Wizard sharp, you. Well, maybe a thimbleful of jerkiness.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  73. Rob Larson

    Guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.

  74. JLM

    .Fair play to you. The Chicago crowd is much more saintly than the NYC Devils, no?Look up “hyperbole” in the dictionary. I can’t remember what it means.As you say, all that other stuff is a great benefit. Just let’s make the folks getting the benefit pay for them, no?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  75. Lells

    Hyperboles only work when there’s some truth behind the message.However, we’re in agreement about your latter point. The folks reaping the most benefits from living in America should absolutely be the ones paying for the majority of the country’s services.You are referring to the country’s wealthiest individuals, correct?

  76. JLM

    .Just a touch of a reading comp problem, maybe? a bit too much hyperbole(s) can do that sometimes.No, I was referring to the folks who actually use it. A Chicago concept, no?Pay to play?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…