Cell Phones on NYC Subways: Advancing Mankind or Advancing Annoyance?

cell phone on new york subway platform astoriaTransit Wireless, the networking company contracted by the MTA,  secured deals last week with AT&T and T-Mobile, and started laying the groundwork for cell phone service on NYC subways.  Within 2 years, networking will be available on 6 testing sites near 14th street. After 4 years, the rest of NYC’s 227 stations will follow. Where some platforms are close together, commuters may have the ability to talk, text and surf while riding inside cars themselves.

“For too long the subway system has been an information black hole in our lives, and bringing cell and Wi-Fi service to stations is one of the ways we are working to change that,” said Jay H. Walder, MTA Chairman.

Although some see this upgrade as overdue, others find cell phone users already have a license to be obnoxious and this will only get worse.

Other cities already have cell phones in transit systems, but there are a host of problems that come along with that. Boston, for instance, saw an increase of cell phone theft.

In August,  The Brian Lehrer Show asked riders to weigh in on the issue and got an earful about etiquette and a comment box full of complaints like this one:

“Instead of having ‘quiet cars’ why not reverse it, make the whole train a quiet zone and reserve a car or two for those that want to be loud and obnoxious?” said Curt from Washington Heights.

On the other hand, when commuters get trapped underground, cell phones can be useful in informing people of your lateness. Even the subway-loving, Mayor Bloomberg, couldn’t escape getting stuck in the Union Square station in 2004.

Is the  MTA’s cell phone plan useful or does it offer one more chance for a rude fellow New Yorker to annoy you?

Do improvements like this justify the rising cost of your metro fare, whose price is being voted on this week?

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18 Responses to Cell Phones on NYC Subways: Advancing Mankind or Advancing Annoyance?

  1. Nathaniel Frandino says:

    The only useful part of this plan is the opportunity for individuals to increase their own security by the ability to contact the authorities while underground and on the platforms. I say this because we’ve seen a tremendous decrease in station agents, which commuters have noticed and are worried about.

    However, this cell phone plan definitely offers more than just a “chance for a rude fellow New Yorker to annoy” me, it’s a guarantee. While some commuters may be immune to the annoyances of the subway, a man or woman armed with a cell phone would make people crack. It’s bad enough with the cacophony of unnecessarily loud mp3 players and iPods, but sharing your personal conversation out loud with a bunch of strangers? Completely out of the question.

    This is just one more reason for New Yorkers to be upset with the MTA.

  2. Hannah Miet says:

    I’m worried about those transitions. Those moments when you can clear your head, and decide if you really want to be traveling to see him/her/it at midnight. There is less room for the stirring of thoughts these days. And while I acknowledge it’s not always positive, I’ll be using my phone on the train. I just know it. It’s hard to disconnect when technology becomes habit.

    Expect train tweets. And not just while I’m above ground.

  3. Elis Estrada-Simpson says:

    If the technology and service is available, I will use it. As mentioned in your article, cell phones in the subway might be good in emergency circumstances.

    Whenever people are talking about whether or not the use of cell phones in the subway is a good thing, I always think about how people can already use their cell phones in the above ground stations and lines in upper Manhattan and the outer boroughs. So in that case, would it really be that big of a change?

    However, I do like to think that after a super long day, my subway ride home is my quiet time/zen and I would not want it to be interrupted by loud cell phone conversation.

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