New Yorkers can now stream Netflix and engage in Twitter fights at every subway station in the city. As of Jan. 9, WiFi is available at all stations two years ahead of schedule, according to a release from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office. Cell service for those subscribed to AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile or Verizon Wireless is also available a year ahead of schedule.
The increased connectivity is the goal of a 27-year partnership between Transit Wireless and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The former has so far invested $300 million in the project, which also includes a public safety broadband network and 3,000 Help Point Intercoms.
“This will better connect New Yorkers who are on-the-go and build on our vision to reimagine the country’s busiest transportation network for the future,” Cuomo said in the release.
While the increased connectivity is no doubt appreciated by those waiting to ride, amenities like WiFi and cell service aren’t always priorities for the average rider. A report released last year by TransitCenter, an NYC policy and advocacy nonprofit, found that most riders rank service improvements of the functional kind highest — things like faster trips, more frequent service and smaller fares — while power outlets and WiFi fall to the bottom of the list.
It’s also worth pointing out the obvious: Staring at our screens is probably a giant helping of missed opportunity. Researchers who have studied the effects of “alone-together” time have found that we would enjoy interacting with our fellow commuters more than we think.
Still, whether they’d enjoy more rapid service and social interaction more in the long run, the people also want “Game of Thrones” reruns. Now they can have them.
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.