Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Urban Dispatch: Put Wifi On Septa Trains

wifi on trains septa would be a smart idea
Wifi on Septa trains — a fairly foolproof way to attract and retain riders.

Ok, before we even get into it — obviously, the whole citywide wifi thing wasn’t the smoothest of operations… (but at least now it would appear to be headed in the right direction).

But train wifi can’t even be compared to municipal wifi. It has none of the problems that are inherent with municipal wifi… and wifi on trains is already a proven winner. Europe rocks that shit everywhere.
European rail travelers take high speeds for granted. Increasingly, they can take advantage of high-speed Internet access, too.

Train operators across Britain and the Continent have been accelerating the rollout of onboard Wi-Fi systems, allowing travelers to prepare for meetings, download video clips or catch up on their e-mail - sometimes while zipping through the countryside at 300 kilometers, or 190 miles, an hour.

While some railway companies see Wi-Fi as a new source of revenue for themselves or for the technology companies that run the systems for them, others see it as a service or marketing perk.
Stateside, we’re a little behind — shockin, we know — but both Boston and San Francisco are about to drop (or have already dropped) serious amounts of Wifi on their commuter trains.
The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District, is negotiating with a startup for a Wi-Fi network that would provide fast Internet access to riders throughout its 104-mile regional rail system.

BART would not pay anything for the network, which would be paid for by rider subscriptions and advertising, according to Wi-Fi Rail, a company based near Sacramento that says it has four patents pending on its Wi-Fi technology for predetermined paths such as railways and roads.

Municipal wireless networks have had a hard time financially, but public transit offers a daily captive audience that is growing as gasoline prices rise. Wi-Fi Rail estimates that within three years, as many as 20 percent of BART’s 180,000 regular riders will subscribe to the service, according to Michael Cromar, chief financial officer of Wi-Fi Rail.
So Boston’s MTA and San Francisco’s BART are unsurprisingly showing why their regions are centers of innovation and technology. If Philadelphia wants to join that party, Septa will need to get off its ass.

The obvious application here is for Septa to put wifi on commuter trains — as the ability to use internet on commutes would be extremely appealing to a ton of new riders for Septa. (Especially compared to battling traffic and $5 a gallon gasoline for an hour on the highway.)

But Septa should look even further into the future and realize that with the advent of iPhones and mobile computing, Wifi is going to be a perk to many more people than just those with laptops. Meaning, they should go ahead and look to install Wifi on their extensive, uh, two-line subway system as well. And possibly trolleys too.

And let’s face it — Septa needs every perk it can get its hands on. And offering riders cheap (or free) wifi on trains is simply a no-brainer.

The more people of all walks of life that Septa can retain as frequent public transit users, the stronger Philadelphia and the entire region will be. So extending the service of regional rails on weekend nights is a good start, but there is a great, great deal more that can and should be done.

Wifi would be a admirable start.

Related:
SF’s BART in talks for full Wi-Fi rollout [ MacWorld ]
Trains in Europe offering Wi-Fi [ International Herald Tribune ]
Would Wi-Fi Push You to Public Transport? [ PC World ]

1 comment:

BC Planning said...

I dont know, people might get robbed on the trains for their laptops