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Metro To Provide WiFi, Cellular Service To Subway Riders

LOS ANGELES ( — Metro subway passengers may soon have access to WiFi and cellular service, according to county officials.

The project, which began last month and is slated for completion by January 2016, will provide service to riders of the Red and Purple subway lines and portions of the Blue, Gold and Expo lines, as well as the future Crenshaw Line, according to Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

Metro officials hope to give riders a preview of the service later this year with plans to have the WiFi system at Union Station online by its 75th anniversary later this year, Yaroslavsky said.

Engineers are currently working to determine where to position a 2,000-square-foot "base station hotel" that will house equipment for cell phone providers that join the Metro network.

While officials did not provide estimates on how many passengers would use the network, Metro official Daniel Lindstrom predicted the service would attract more younger riders.

"If you're in your 20s, like my kids, they say, 'Why don't you have cell phone coverage in the subway? What's wrong with you?'" Lindstrom said. "I'm just about to hit 50, and I think it's nice to have, but I don't necessarily expect it. And if you're in your 80s, you say, 'Just forget about it.'"

In a report to Metro's Executive Management Committee, officials estimated the agency could net about $360,000 annually from the new system, which would allow riders with data plans to use the network free of charge.

Riders without such plans would be able to access the network using pay-as-you-go plans similar to those aboard commercial airline flights and other underground systems like London, where riders pay about $3 a day, according to Lindstrom.

In addition to network access, the service will also boost security on Metro trains by allowing passengers to call for help and allow deputies and security officers to view and respond to real-time video feeds, Yaroslavsky said.

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