Monday, January 04, 2016
CTA: Upgrades for 4G service completed in Red, Blue line subways
Grace WongChicago Tribune
Commuters now have 4G access for their smartphones on the entire subway of the Red and Blue lines, Chicago Transit Authority officials announced Tuesday morning.
"4G communications provide a huge benefit to our customers, many of whom the train serves as a second office or a way to stay connected to family and friends," said CTA President Dorval Carter. "And equally important, it means significantly improved communications for CTA personnel and emergency responders who are working in our tunnels. But perhaps the best part of this project is that it was done to no cost to the taxpayer."
The project makes Chicago the largest city in North America to have full coverage in its subway systems, according to the CTA. The Red and Blue lines are the only lines that go underground.
The 20-year agreement, announced last January, called for four major wireless providers to pay for the installation, operation and maintenance of the latest-generation 4G communications technology in the Blue and Red line tunnels.
The move to 4G was long awaited by the roughly 400,000 riders who pass through the Red and Blue line subways on an average weekday. They are the CTA's two most heavily used rail lines.
Mariana Perdomo, 20, who takes the Orange Line to work, said that she was happy about the improvement and plans on taking the Red Line again.
"Before I would ride (on the Red Line), but I didn't have signal so I'm like, 'I'm just going to start taking the Orange Line,'" she said. "(The Red Line) gets me here faster but I avoided taking it."
The $32.5 million agreement was brokered by the Chicago Infrastructure Trust, according to the Emanuel administration. The trust was created in 2012 to provide alternative financing and broader options for the city to take on major infrastructure projects.
Leslie Darling, executive director of the trust, expressed her excitement over the project.
"This is a great example of the kind of public-private partnership that will become the hallmark of the newly revamped Chicago Infrastructure Trust," Darling said. "The CIT will continue to work with the city's agencies to identify and finance innovative infrastructure projects this year and going forward."
T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon and Sprint paid for the entire upgrade related to the design and construction of a distributed antenna system capable of supporting 4G wireless networks and mobile devices, officials said.
The wireless companies are expected to reap millions in additional profits from increased data charges to customers on CTA trains.
The companies will pay the CTA a flat amount each year — starting at $500,000 and rising 3 percent a year over the life of the contract — to lease space in the subway tunnels to run the 4G service, officials said when the program was announced. The CTA also will save roughly $400,000 a year by no longer having to pay maintenance costs for the wireless network, they said.
"I'm glad that we can get service now because it's 2015, 2016," said Donnie Labau, 28, who takes the Red Line to work every day. "It's about time they were able to upgrade it to accommodate the change in times."
Copyright © 2016, Chicago Tribune
A version of this article appeared in print on December 30, 2015, in the News section of the Chicago Tribune with the headline "Subways get 4G wireless upgrade - Project in CTA tunnels delivers speedier data to Red, Blue line riders" — Today's paper | Subscribehttp://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-cta-4g-wireless-service-20151229-story.html