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MTA Expanding Subway Cell Service This Week

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TWC News: MTA Expanding Subway Cell Service This Week
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Like being able to make calls or send text messages underground? Well, like it or not, that capability is coming to dozens more subway platforms soon. Transit reporter Jose Martinez spoke to straphangers who see the good and the bad in being constantly connected.

There's no shaking free from mobile devices in a growing number of the city's subway stations.

Starting Thursday, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority says it will introduce Wi-Fi and cell service in 30 more Manhattan stations, allowing straphangers to make calls, send emails and tap out text messages while underground.

"I miss a whole bunch of emails, a whole bunch of text messages, if I got a sick kid," said one straphanger. Yes, I miss stuff."

It's the next wave of a push to make subway stations more cellphone-friendly, after the company Transit Wireless contracted with the MTA to begin introducing wireless service to a few stations along 14th Street in 2011.

The MTA declined to identify which stations will be outfitted with Wi-Fi and cell service, though a source said they'll be on the West Side, from 42nd Street-Times Square to 96th Street.

It's easy enough to stay connected when you're at the 14th St. station on the Eighth Avenue line, one of a handful in the system where you can presently get service. The hope among transit officials is that the by end of 2015, all 277 underground stations will have Wi-Fi capacity.

Some straphangers, however, worry that moving around in crowded stations at rush hour won't be easy if some commuters are too busy texting or talking.

"I think it will just make people less attentive to what's around them," said one.

Others see the value in being able to place calls from platforms or station mezzanines.

"Say if somebody falls on the tracks, we don't have the service," said one straphanger. "We can't call the cops or call the ambulance in case something happens like that."

More convenience, more security or just more of an annoyance? Straphangers will begin finding out soon enough.

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