New York Subways Arriving at Internet Age

     BROOKLYN (CN) – New York City’s subway system will waltz into the 21st Century by the end of the year by allowing straphangers to surf the web while surfing the train – all to the tune of about $34 billion.
     The subway system’s 6 million commuters have endured years without Internet access while coursing through the underbelly of the Big Apple.
     But on Friday, Gov. Andrew. Cuomo made a big announcement in Brooklyn: The state will put $8 billion toward the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s $26.1 billion budget to redo at least 30 stations across the city, install cameras on city buses, and make Wi-Fi available at all 278 MTA subway stations.
     Only 140 underground stations have Wi-Fi access today.
     Cuomo said he’s done waiting, and called for a 50 percent speed-up for improvements to be made at all stations by the end of the year.
     “All 278 underground subway stations will have Wi-Fi service by the end of 2016,” he announced.
     More goodies are on deck: Mobile ticketing will be offered on the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North within six months.
     Subways and buses also will go to “contactless payments” by 2018, which means the iconic yellow Metro cards may soon be obsolete.
     Several noticeable changes have already been spotted by commuters.
     Riders have noted the increase in information kiosks and countdown clocks that give them an idea when to expect the next train. Globelike surveillance cameras have been installed but remain in their cellophane packaging in several stations in Brooklyn.
     There are 169 so-called “On the Go Travel Station” kiosks and overhead cameras in 31 stations.
     The city’s subway cars and buses will get USB charging ports by 2018, and about 85 percent of buses will have surveillance cameras installed in them.
     Cuomo touted it as his “eighth signature proposal of his 2016 agenda,” to “modernize and fundamentally transform the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, dramatically improving the travel experience for millions of New Yorkers and visitors to the metropolitan region.”
     “The MTA is absolutely vital to the daily function of New York City, but for too long it has failed to meet the region’s growing size and strength,” Cuomo said last weekend at the New York Transit Museum, in the shadow of the Brooklyn Supreme County Courthouse.
     “This is about doing more than just repair and maintain – this is thinking bigger and better and building the 21st century transit system New Yorkers deserve.”
     MTA officials lauded the effort and vowed to meet the governor’s challenge.
     “The MTA is committed to meeting Gov. Cuomo’s challenge head-on, eliminating every possible inefficiency to deliver these improvements faster, better, and at a lower cost,” MTA CEO Thomas F. Prendergast said.
     The transportation union also applauded the efforts.
     “These projects will greatly improve the commutes for scores of riders and we’re proud to be doing our part,” said Transport Workers Union Local 100 President John Samuelson.
     In addition, 30 subway stations will get a new look by 2020.

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