This post is dedicated to the expanse of WiFi networks across public transit systems. Now you may have heard in recent months of new WiFi hotspots at various coffeehouses, restaurants, shops, and other businesses in your area. In many cases now, entire metropolitan areas have WiFi networks for you to use when you’re on the go. Although many establishments may charge you for service through ISP (Internet Service Providers) like Verizon or Bright House (one example is International Plaza, where you have to be a Bright House customer to have free WiFi access in the mall), many WiFi services are free to use (like at many Starbucks and McDonalds locations). However, have you thought about using your laptop or tablet while using public transit? In many locations now, you can do just that!
Now, I have to say that in the Tampa Bay Area, when it comes to WiFi and public transit, things are at best…very slow to implement. HART has been planning out an introduction to free public WiFi for a while now. However, the costs of setting up and maintaining such a network has continually delayed any immediate plans for a rollout. In fact, because HART’s budget is so tight right now, we will not be able to see any WiFi networks onboard HART buses or at transfer centers for quite some time (give or take a few years at best). Now I do have to mention that at one point, HART did try out WiFi on two of their Gillig BRT (2500 series) buses, but that was discontinued sometime in 2008 due to costs.
On the other hand; PSTA has already been able to implement a WiFi network at selected transfer centers. This network may be able to expand later on depending on costs (again though, don’t expect a massive rollout just yet). You can read more about PSTA’s WiFi services by clicking here.
In Paris, France; the city’s transit authority, the RATP, is getting ready to launch the first stages of its WiFi network to selected subway stations in the city thanks to WiFi provider GOWEX. This will hopefully lead to a system-wide network where patrons using smartphones and tablets can easily browse the web while on the go. The same is being done in London in preparation for the Summer Olympics; where WiFi networks are being launched to a wide array of subway stations within the city. You can read more about the efforts in Paris by clicking here.
In New York City, WiFi access is now available in selected subway stations via Boingo. Hopefully; this network will also expand to other stations later on.
I must say that having WiFi throughout public transit systems make sense because more and more people have smartphones and/or tablets; which in-turn, enable people to get more things done on the go. However; with the added convenience of having WiFi available while in transit, comes the need to be extra vigilant. In these hard economic times, there are many people out there who are eying your electronic devices so that the can find the right moment to steal them. Be sure to always keep a close eye on your possessions and NEVER leave anything unattended, not even for a second I remember nearly losing my iPod at a HART bus stop because I was too focused on paying my fare rather than checking to make sure I had everything with me. I’ve also heard many “horror stories” about pickpockets and other thieves who have gotten away with more than just cash, but also various electronics like cell phones, iPods, even laptops. So again, the key is vigilance.