In addition to voting on that "ambassador" program on Thursday, BART's board of directors will be voting on a four-phase, multi-year plan to finally make good on a decade-old promise to provide systemwide wi-fi.
Don't hold your breath, but new BART General Manager Bob Powers is excited to introduce a proposal this week that will bring supposedly seamless wi-fi service to station platforms, tunnels, and trains. And the project will apparently include bringing wi-fi to non-BART Muni underground tunnels as well.
As the Chronicle reports, contractor Mobility Services LLC wants to do the work to install fiber-optic cable and wi-fi through the BART system, and this will apparently be done at their own expense, with BART standing to make revenue down the line from leasing out access to its network? Sounds great! But as longtime Bay Area residents may recall, such promises have been made before — and a 2009 deal with a company called WiFi Rail ended in disaster and lawsuits with no functioning wi-fi five years on.
As recently as 2015, we were told that the task of installing systemwide wi-fi on Muni or BART trains or in tunnels was logistically difficult and not coming anytime soon.
But now everyone is sounding optimistic again, and there's talk of some sort of Bluetooth beacons in stations, and multiple phases that we'll need to see on our own cellphones to believe, likely not for several years. In the good news column, it sounds like San Francisco wi-fi wiring might come first, with BART's multi-phase effort supposedly set to begin with wiring up the shared BART and Muni tunnel system, as well as the Sunset, Twin Peaks, and Central Subway tunnels.
It also sounds like continuous wi-fi service on trains will be limited to the new Fleet of the Future cars, and that full fleet isn't scheduled to come online for a couple of years.
So anyway, again, don't hold your breath! But BART director Janice Li sounds excited:
as a millennial I am unfunctioning without internet— Janice Li (@JaniceForBART) January 7, 2020
I am excited to vote on this to enable myself to meme and ride transit at the same time https://t.co/u5vh3rtfWn