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No it's Okay, We're Just Going Into a Tunnel

By Matt Wood in News on Dec 16, 2005 3:57PM

2005_12_razr.jpgOne of the last refuges from those "My Humps" ring tones and obnoxiously loud one-sided conversations could be going away as soon as next summer. The CTA has approved plans to allow the public to use the cellular phone infrastructure in subway tunnels, previously only available to CTA workers and emergency personnel. The initial lease on the system is with Joan Cusack Cellular, to the tune of $2.9 million for 10 years. But the CTA is already talking with other cell providers to access the network.

The move was spurred by fears of terrorism on subways after the 2004 Madrid bombings and this summer's bombings in London. Officials want people to be able to make calls during all emergencies, such as fires, accidents, and not knowing when your friends will be at Le Passage. Scotland Yard initially voiced fears that the London terrorists had triggered their explosives with phones, but later ruled out the possibility. Ultimately the CTA decided the benefits of subway phone coverage outweighed any risks.

So is this the latest sign of the collapse of civility, the breaking down of a final feeble barrier protecting common courtesy in public spaces, or is it the inexorable march of progress? And how much could you really hear on a cell phone in the tunnels anyway? Isn't that usually the loudest part of the trip?