Free Wireless Internet In Works For Metrorail Stations And Eventually Trains
By Risa Polansky
Commuters: get ready to surf and ride.
Miami-Dade Transit is on track to provide free wireless Internet access at Metrorail stations and eventually on trains, a move officials hope could lure more riders and add revenue.
About $2 million in newly released federal stimulus aid is to fund equipment for a new system of electronic information signs with built-in wireless components, turning stations into Wi-Fi hotspots for waiting riders.
A contract should be signed by March and stations should also come online next year, said Rosie Perez, senior chief of information technology.
And by late 2010 or early 2011, riders should be able to log on en route — allowing commuters to move from behind their wheels to behind their laptops.
"It’s a lot better to sit on the train and be productive than be sitting in traffic," said Susanna Guzman-Arean, who handles transit’s strategic planning and performance management. "We think that it would motivate people to get out of their cars."
Officials are drafting solicitations for a partner to get the trains linked up.
"We’re hoping to have that funded through a private-public partnership with revenue-sharing opportunities," technology chief Ms. Perez said.
The county could pay back the contractor by, for example, using the wireless platform for advertising, then share the profits.
And for the transit department "it becomes a source of revenue, too," Director Harpal Kapoor said.
Advertisers could promote where riders log on, or through the new station signs.
CBS advertises on the existing static signs, Ms. Perez said, so new electronic signs could open the door for added ads. Advertisement