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CTA To Bring 4G Wireless Service To Subways

By Lisa White in News on Oct 3, 2013 6:00PM

Photo credit: Erin Nekervis

In a press release sent out today, the CTA announced that they are seeking proposals from wireless telecommunications companies to upgrade the existing subway wireless network to 4G technology.

This initiative is one of the “several efforts by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CTA President Forrest Claypool to modernize infrastructure and make the CTA a world-class transit system.” Yes, because when I think “world-class” I think of the person behind me on the red line being able to continually using their outside voice on the phone for the duration of their ride. Also, insert a complaint about Ventra in this argument somewhere, because that is what we do with all CTA discussions currently.

The existing infrastructure dates back to 2005, and only supports voice services and limited data usage. The CTA promises that with the upgraded services, the “subway wireless network will improve the customer experience by offering better and more robust services capable of supporting tablets and smartphone capabilities.” Nothing puts the smart in smartphone than being totally unaware of your surroundings on public transit. Seems to contradict the warnings from the CTA to stay alert when riding to help cut down on crime, specifically all the warnings that have stemmed from cell phone robberies on public transit. Soon you will be able to get more deeply engrossed in another level of Candy Crush so much that you may not even notice someone swiping your wallet. At least it is more convenient and less hassle for all parties involved in a robbery situation.

The CTA currently owns and leases the subway cellular network to six major wireless service providers, which generate approximately $1.8 million in non-farebox revenue for the agency annually. The project costs will be determined after proposals are received from qualified vendors, and will be funded through the CTA’s annual capital program.

Although this is great news if you need to quickly respond to an important email while stuck between the Chicago and Division Blue Line stations, overall many people would rank this not as important in the grand scheme of CTA issues at hand.