In addition to new LED signs and public art now installed at SFMTA’s Church and West Portal subway stations, another notable update will help modernize the entire Metro system: new wi-fi availability in underground stations and tunnels.

The SFMTA this week announced that the agency recently installed wireless routers and cellular antennas inside the Muni Metro tunnels — bringing more reliable internet access and also improved cellular access to the below-ground tracks.

The agency also announced that its recent roster of improvements, completed during this year-long shutdown of the subway system, includes better tunnel lighting, track grinding work to smooth out the tracks, and new LED signage intended to make navigating in and around the stations easier.

“Our staff used this rare, extended subway shutdown as an opportunity to accelerate other upgrades and necessary maintenance work by packaging them with subway repairs to maximize results,” reads part of the statement from the transit agency. “During normal service, subway maintenance crews can only work within the few hours a day when trains are not running.”

Additionally, there are new public artworks at the temporary street-level platforms at West Portal and Church Street stations (see below). You'll find artist Emily Fromm's mural "East West Portal" at West Portal Station, and artist Simón Malvaez's "Them (Ramp)" at Church Street.

Emily Fromm's mural "East West Portal"
Simón Malvaez and his piece "Them (Ramp)" at Church Street

The agency’s “safety certification” for the subway repairs was approved last month and, should things continue without further hiccups, a phased reopening of Muni Metro light rail services is slated to begin in May. The SFMTA also expects to gradually phase back service by extending the T-Third Metro to West Portal and bringing back the N Judah between Ocean Beach and 4th and King; the agency will share additional details as they become available.

Regardless, whenever SFMTA is back up and running in full pre-pandemic swing, it looks like we’ll have even more opportunities to go down YouTube rabbit hotels while commuting to our new hybrid offices.

And communicate with "loved ones." That, too.

“Soon, you’ll be able to let your loved ones know you’re on your way even when you’re underground,” SFMTA added in its announcement.

The mass transit agency’s new wi-fi-accessible tunnel routes come after a year fraught with financial setbacks. Due to a lack of ridership spurred by COVID-19, SFMTA expects that some lines will inevitably be cut in the coming years as the agency comes to terms with an expected budget deficit, however federal stimulus funds may have staved off some expected layoffs and other painful cuts.

Related: Muni Likely To Cut Many Bus Lines In Coming Years As More Commuters Turn To Cars

SFMTA Considers Laying Off 22% of Its Drivers, Engineers & Maintenance Staff

Image: Courtesy of SFMTA