Massachusetts equips commuter rail lines with wireless Internet access
On Jan. 27, Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Murray announced that the MBTA was ready to launch its innovative “Wi-Fi Commuter Rail Connect Test Program.” On Jan. 30, the program kicked into high gear, and the MBTA began offering free wireless Internet service on at least one coach of every train traveling the 45-mile commuter rail line between Boston and Worcester, Mass.
Forty-five coaches initially will be equipped with the service, enabling the line’s 18,000 daily passengers to use laptop computers, cellular phones, PDAs or other Wi-Fi-enabled devices to access the Internet during their commutes to and from South Station on participating coaches.
“One of the first programs of this type on a U.S. commuter rail system, this service will provide our customers with the opportunity to get the most out of their time spent commuting,” said MBTA General Manager Daniel A. Grabauskas. “During this test phase, feedback from our riders will be solicited to help us maximize the technology’s benefits, and then expand the program to other parts of the 13-line commuter rail system.”
Wi-Fi amenities on buses and trains are becoming more common and are frequently cited as inducements for using public transit, particularly to improve productivity of commuters as they travel to and from the workplace.
“This is an important first step in our commitment to improve commuter rail services throughout the commonwealth,” Murray said. “I believe this is a great opportunity for Massachusetts because we are a high-tech state and pride ourselves on our well-educated work force. This allows that connectivity to take place and encourages and [offers incentives for] people to take the train as well.”
Technology drives implementation
To deliver high-speed Internet access onboard commuter rail lines, the MBTA selected RiderNet3, a third-generation WiFi solution developed by Parvus Corp., based in Salt Lake City.
Parvus offers a turn-key solution that bundles all needed equipment (router, modem, antennas and cabling) along with managed services, including cellular airtime, technical support, remote system monitoring, 1-800 user phone support service and usage reporting.
RiderNet provides business commuters, students and other passengers with a wireless (Wi-Fi) connection to check e-mail and visit Web sites at broadband speeds (averaging 400 to 700 KB per second), while seated on a bus or other mass-transit vehicle.
Especially suited for harsh transit environments, RiderNet 3 incorporates rugged hardware that eliminates the use of cellular Aircards. The system reduces infrastructure costs for the transit agency by using a public cellular network.
The standard RiderNet kit includes a wireless router, integrated broadband modem, GPS receiver (integrated with Google maps), vehicle antennas and all required cables and other installation hardware.
Optional features include content filtering to block pornography while accessing the onboard system.
From its network operations center in Salt Lake City, Parvus monitors and tracks all installed systems and performs troubleshooting services.
For more information about RiderNet3 and other Parvus products, visit http://www.parvus.com/.