BART, Caltrain to receive Wi-Fi within next few years

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The Bay Area may finally get Wi-Fi on two of its public transportation systems — BART and Caltrain — but not for next few years.

BART has identified a Wi-Fi vendor with expectations that it will take about three years to install Wi-Fi once the contract is signed, according to BART spokesperson Jim Allison. This process requires installation of antennas along more than 110 miles of track, Allison said. Construction will occur during the night, when the BART passenger service is shut down for maintenance.

In 2009, BART initiated plans with the wireless communications company WiFi Rail Inc. to install internet service, but in 2014 it terminated the contract because WiFi Rail allegedly did not meet contract obligations, according to Allison. WiFi Rail filed a lawsuit against BART in 2016, alleging that BART cost the company $7 million when it pulled out of the 20-year agreement.

Allison said he could not disclose the name of the potential vendor that BART will be using.

“We are confident that the vendor that will be selected for the (Wi-Fi) service will be able to perform to our standards,” Allison said in an email.

Caltrain, a rail line on the San Francisco Peninsula and in the Santa Clara Valley, will also be receiving Wi-Fi in the coming years.

In 2017, Caltrain began the Peninsula Corridor Electrification Project, which will result in a mixed fleet of about 75 percent electric and 25 percent diesel trains. The electric trains, according to Caltrain Communications Officer Tasha Bartholomew, will be Wi-Fi-ready by the time the project is complete.

“Wi-Fi is a possible feature for better customer experience,” Bartholomew said. “We carry close to 65,000 riders a day. … Almost everyone has a smartphone.”

Whether Caltrain can switch its fleet entirely to electric cars depends on whether it receives a $630 million grant from the Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program. If Caltrain receives the grant, having Wi-Fi available for all riders is a possible outcome, Bartholomew said.

Regardless of whether Caltrain receives the grant, the electric trains created as a part of the electrification project are scheduled to be in service by 2022 and will be equipped with Wi-Fi.

Contact Andreana Chou at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @AndreanaChou.