Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Something maddening I don't understand

How is it possible that the subway systems in the biggest cities of China have cell phone service throughout and yet you cannot get a signal in the subways of New York City, a city that has been hit more than once by terrorists? How is it this does not compromise public safety? It's completely idiotic.

Tonight, after spending some late-night time with ex-Zumanity star Joey Arias in the East Village for a future LVW column, I went into the subway to return to my friend's Brooklyn apartment, where I'm staying. Alas, I got on the wrong train, went one stop the wrong direction, got off and waited forever for the correct train to go the right way.

All the while, Miles was sitting around in Vegas expecting to hear that I'd arrived safely and worrying sick as I'm not there or answering nearly an hour later than he would have expected. At the same time, I'm underground waiting on a spooky, damp, smelly subway platform at 2 a.m. with a few scary people and absolutely no way to make contact.

Hey MTA. If the Chinese can do it, so can we. Get up on that. Maybe part of the Obama public works stimulus package, perchance? Yeesh.


Anonymous said...

I worked for a wireless carrier for seven years and know a little about this.

The main reason why there are not signal relayers in the subway has to do with cost. In the U.S., the governing transit authority usually make the wireless carriers install the equipment, shoulder all the expense of running cables and power to the access point, and then charges them a monthly rent of sorts on top. Add to that the fact that the carriers generally don't or won't share equipment and/or they operate on incompatible cellular technology, so there's not an easy way to spread the expense over multiple companies and enough customers using the relayers to make it pencil out cost-wise.

AT&T put signal relayers in a few of the major BART stations in San Francisco several years ago. That's the only place I've been that has had coverage underground.

I agree, though, it's stupid and shortsighted not to have coverage in subway/transit stations.

gregoryzephyr said...

Don't quote me but as I recall, AT&T gets free or reduced advertising rates on billboards and signage in the BART stations which offset the cost of installation. There was also something of a public reluctance as well since some people said they didnt want to be in confined and crowded subway cars with nitwits blabbing inches away. (Not very different than being on a bus, though.) The public safety benefit I think was discussed also and in earthquake country being underground without cell service is no minor concern. I agree that it could be a beneficial "public works" type of project that wouldn't necessarily require years of planning like building a highway.

mike_ch said...

MTA is cutting service and routes, I'm not sure they could afford it.

I found that the TTC subway of Toronto doesn't have cell service, and it's well-subsidized with both high fares and a lot of political protection. They have only 69 stations and much less track than MTA, so I just assumed cell service in subways was impossible. Didn't know they were doing it in China.

Though China can accomplish anything it puts it's mind to, since it doesn't have to worry about individual freedom or private property to get it done.

mike_ch said...

Also, regarding scary unpleasant people: statistically speaking, NYC is the safest city in America.

You want to see some uncomfortable situations, go past the glitz of the Strip a little bit and ride public transit around in your own hometown.

MrsVJW said...

Having also worked for a couple cellular companies over the years... cinenaut has it right. It can be done, they've had the technology for YEARS (I worked on some of it when I was a newbie) but it's all about the carriers... depending on your company you may luck out and get service if their equipment is installed, but if it ain't, you're not getting a signal.