Welcome to Subway Cell Hell?


Looks like these old pay phones won’t be needed for long.
Photo by Boklm via Flickr

Like most things in life, the MTA’s decision to outfit all 277 underground subway stations with cell phone service looks to be a mixed blessing at best. Sure, when you’re stuck waiting for the train, you can call the job, your friend, your home and let them know you’re running late.

But then when you hang up, you’re going to wait for that train while listening to the cacophony of phone chatter of delusional nut jobs, self-important Wall Street types, and annoying New Yorkers of just about every stripe.

It’s not clear, to this straphanger anyway, that this will be a good thing.

Imagine being stuck on a crowded train that’s stalled close enough to a station that it’s receiving a cell phone signal. Not only are you physically crammed in to the subway car, but your ears are now being crammed with sounds from six conversations: a guy sweet-talking his girlfriend just so you know he’s a great loverman, an Upper East side frat boy talking about puking in front of Brother Jimmy’s, and really loud high school girls talking about whatever, just to name a few. Is that not a recipe for a freak-out? Imagine the Seinfeld when Elaine gets stuck on train, except that now she’s listening to a few horrible phone conversation. Whoa.

An iPod or mp3 player will not be optional for the subway ride when this “upgrade” finally happens. Is it worth it?

From the New York Times:

The company that won the right to wire the stations, Transit Wireless, will pay New York City Transit a minimum of $46.8 million over 10 years, the agency said. The company will also pay the full cost of building the wireless network in the underground stations, estimated at $150 million to $200 million.

Under the agreement, cellphone providers would pay the company a fee to carry their signals on the network.

The cellphone network will start in six downtown Manhattan stations in two years. Once it is shown to be working properly, Transit Wireless will have four more years to outfit the rest of the underground stations.

Under the agreement, the first six stations are to be those at 23rd Street and 14th Street on the Eighth Avenue line, 14th Street on the Seventh Avenue line, 14th Street on the Sixth Avenue line, and Eighth Avenue and Sixth Avenue on the L line.

All areas of the stations, including entryways, mezzanines, platforms and transfer passages, will be wired. The system will be designed to allow a seamless connection between the train and street level, so that users will not lose calls as they move in or out of the stations, according to Gary Simpson, president of Nab Construction, a Queens company that is a partner in the wireless venture.