Paid Advertisement

riding metra

Metra's Wi-Fi Program

After a successful six-month test using 12 railcars on all lines, Metra installed free cellular Wi-Fi hotspots on 50 more cars in late 2016.

The decision to continue and expand the Wi-Fi program was made after a majority of customers in an online survey said they were satisfied with the quality of the connection during the test, which began in February 2016. In addition, a majority of survey respondents also indicated that the onboard Wi-Fi service met their expectations. The test was intended to determine whether the hotspot technology could provide free and dependable internet access to customers at an affordable cost to Metra.

The 50 additional cars are distributed throughout the Metra system and labeled with orange decals on the exterior.

In general, the hotspots are limited to a 1 megabyte per second download speed per user. Checking email and Internet browsing are the intended uses of this service, not streaming video. Metra will continue to post information onboard to notify customers that streaming video will likely impair service and that there may be dead zones along the route.

The Wi-Fi hotspot units cost about $2,000 each. The monthly data charges cost about $250 per unit per month, so the annual cost for units in 62 cars will be about $186,000. Metra is seeking partners to help offset the costs of the program. In 2013, Metra investigated offering more extensive Wi-Fi service on all cars, but the estimated $72 million upfront cost was prohibitive and in a subsequent effort the agency could not identify a partner who could reliably provide that level of funding.

To further enhance the agency’s customer connectivity options, Metra in 2015 completed installation of charging stations at all five downtown stations and implemented free Wi-Fi in the waiting areas.

Paid Advertisement