A while back we told you that Sound Transit was going to put out an RFP for vendors to install cell service in light rail tunnels, including the downtown tunnel and U-Link.  Well, the bids are in and we have a winner.  The winning vendor, Mobilitie, will install cellular service for all 4 major US companies, and pay Sound Transit for the privilege of doing so (Mobilitie will, in turn, charge the telcos for the service).  Per ST (pdf):

The vendor will completely fund the design, installation, operation and maintenance of the wireless project and will pay Sound Transit a monthly fee of $7,500 for the entire license term, including any option years. There will be no cost to Sound Transit for the installation of the system aside from some administrative costs that are expected to be less than the monthly fee Sound Transit receives from the vendor. For future light rail expansions, the vendor will make a one-time capital payment of $250,000 for each additional link segment, including the University Link Extension, East Link Extension and Northgate Link Extension. Upon the completion of the Northgate Link Extension, Mobilitie will provide an additional one-time capital payment of $50,000.

Timing for the installation is not given. Hat tip to reader Joe S.

Update: Sound Transit’s Bruce Gray let us know that the board still needs to formally approve the proposal in a few weeks, but this is the staff’s recommended vendor and approach.  It should be operational by mid-2016.

35 Replies to “Cell Service Contract Proposed for Tunnels”

  1. As much as I’ll miss the silencing of overly chatty passengers that the DSTT currently provides, this is great news. Kudos to whoever figured out how to get ST paid for allowing access.

    1. Especially great news for those stuck in the tunnel and can’t let those waiting for them know that they are – spouses, babysitters, etc.

    2. My word for my silencing (via sms) as I entered the tunnel was ‘intubation’; glad this won’t be useful anymore.

    1. Yep, i don’t think it’s possible to do one without the other these days. Or at the very least it would incite a huge backlash.

      1. Concur. It would be crazy not to include data. But this sounds like too good of a deal so I was looking for a “gotcha”.

    1. It will be so nice to have data access in the DSTT!

      Amazing how not having cell service for just a few minutes for some causes such anxiety.

      1. SEAN some of us use data for more than Facebook. Like, work or checking how late our bus is going to be.

      2. You actually use Facebook for work? Wow – novel concept! Noone I know does anything like that & I’m being quite serious.

    1. Android and iOS (iPhone, iPad) use a combination of their internal GPS, referencing a database of wifi access point names/SSID (that Google and Apple have amassed), with their known locations, and triangulating cell tower signals. In a tunnel you wont have access to the first two, so that leaves triangulating cellular signals, in a tunnel at any given point I doubt you’d be-able to see more than one or two at a time, so unless the cellular networks actually broadcast location information that’s available to Android and iOS, the answer is probably no.

      1. Location does work in the NYC tunnels with cell service. It’s not as accurate as GPS but it does know when I’ve moved from Time Square to Grand Central without ever going outside.

      2. Location services have one huge advantage in a tunnel. If the system recognizes that the cell site is in a tunnel, then it also knows you can only move along a single dimension (unlike on the surface, where it has to consider movement along at least two).

        If your software’s location algorithm can use that information, then the accuracy is only limited by the distance between cell-sites.

      3. If this works anything like the other existing radio systems in the tunnel there will be only one site which covers the entire tunnel. Leaky coax is connected to the controller and run along the entire tube.

  2. Maybe we have ORCA issue a special GCPC (Gross Cell Phone Conversation) endorsement to permit fare inspectors to confiscate offenders’ phones if they haven’t paid for privilege.

    Bet even worst fare evaders will consider inspectors as heroes for that service.

    Or, like other manners-oriented prohibitions in English and Spanish, give examples of conversations putting actions, animals, and people’s mothers in the same sentence that will not be tolerated because knife fights require extra crew-time to get blood off vehicle floors so nobody slips in it and sues.

    Might also have a capitalized, bolded, italicized warning that the three or four bad- beep words in English pale in comparison with curses in the rest of the world’s languages that can draw flies and buzzards upon utterance.

    As well as absolutely requiring that the speaker be converted to shish kebab, roasted, and fed to imported hyenas right there in the aisle. Remember also that science has discovered that until they are twelve, children learn languages in snap.

    So if you get turned into a loathsome toad in Austro-Hungarian for scolding your kid-don’t bother risk management. Same if you’re forced to stick your head in the ground and grow like an onion in Yiddish. So better keep your phone on “silent” even if it’s legal and usable.


    1. I saw a fare inspector ask someone to turn down the headphones yesterday. It warmed the cockles of my heart.

      1. He tapped his ear and the woman took out her headphones. Once she had taken out her headphones, the fare inspector asked her to turn her music down.

  3. And of course due to the business model there is no free WIFI included. I offered to personally purchase Cisco Meraki access points for the downtown tunnel stations a couple years ago and Metro responded with “we will soon contract with a vendor for the enitre line” and “Historically, KCM has received relatively few requests for public Wi-Fi in the DSTT, so the project has not been a high enough priority to receive funding. ”

    Maybe I am wrong though and free WIFI will be provisioned?

    1. WiFi doesn’t seem as useful as cell service, since you’ll lose the WiFi signal when you exit the tunnel. I guess free WiFi as a public service has its merits, but do we want to spend our limited transit dollars on WiFi?

    2. I haven’t seen the contract, but the RFP specifically mentioned that WiFi is not required, but bids wouldn’t be rejected if they included WiFi.

Comments are closed.