Love thy cell phone? Love thy neighbor’s cell phone? Think about it. Where can you get away from them? A few places left?fancy restaurants, church (maybe), the subway…. Well, subways were once a safe haven from ubiquitous phone chatter. Depending on where you live, however, they are now becoming another arena for the battle between cell phone lovers and cell phone haters.
This spring, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority announced plans to make the “T” cell-phone-friendly by lining all its subway tunnels with telecommunications antennas. The plan makes good business sense?the MBTA could make millions of dollars by leasing the subway space to telecommunications companies. However, there is no guarantee that it will be popular with consumers, many of whom look to the train ride as a respite from wireless devices.
“Some people may complain that they can’t get away from cell phones, but it’s the modern era, and we’re going to provide as many ways to access technology as possible,” says Jon Carlisle, a spokesman for Massachusetts State Transportation Secretary Kevin Sullivan. “It will add an element of convenience for commuters.”
Boston isn’t alone in deciding to increase wireless capabilities on its transit systems. The New York City transit authority is looking into making its subway accessible for wireless devices, Carlisle says, and commuters on the Metro in Washington, D.C., have had wireless access on the train since 1995. Still, commuters have made their desire for silence known, and some transit companies are listening. Amtrak recently designated quiet cars on its commuter lines between Boston, New York City and Washington, D.C. There are now quiet cars on 25 trains that run along the East Coast corridor, says Karen Dunn, a spokeswoman for Amtrak.
“We’re responding to what the market is demanding,” Dunn says. “We live in a wired society, and the ability to use your cell phone on the train is great for businesspeople who travel a lot. But we’re all a little burnt out and need a chance to unplug.”