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April 5, 2007

KCDOT News Center
News from King County Department of Transportation
Release date:  April 5, 2007

Metro bus riders can sample Wi-Fi as part of extended pilot project

If you ride Metro Transit routes 255, 644, 197 or selected trips on the 952 custom bus route serving the Boeing Company’s Everett plant, you can grab your laptop, climb aboard and go on-line beginning Monday, April 9 as part of King County Metro Transit’s extended Wi-Fi pilot project. The pilot, designed to test the performance of Wi-Fi service on buses, will continue through at least the remainder of 2007.

This newest phase of the pilot, first launched in 2005, will assess the effectiveness of Wi-Fi service on longer commute bus trips serving communities such as Kenmore, Kingsgate, Overlake, Kirkland, Federal Way, Kent, Des Moines and Seattle. The new Wi-Fi routes now join the Route 197, an original pilot route, in providing free wireless Internet access to passengers who have laptops or Wi-Fi-enabled devices.

Later this spring, Metro will expand the program to include several vanpools to gauge the technology’s effectiveness in smaller commuter vehicles.

“Since we launched the first phase of the Wi-Fi pilot, we’ve learned that many of our customers have come to rely on and appreciate this service – especially those traveling long distances to get to school or work,” King County Executive Ron Sims said. “This next phase will allow us to learn even more about customer response to the service, in addition to better understanding how Wi-Fi performs on these longer trips.”

Metro has teamed up with Sprint Cellular and Junxion, Inc., a Seattle-based mobile connection provider, to offer Wi-Fi service on 48 buses serving the four transit routes.  (Wi-Fi service on the Route 952 will be limited to the last trip in the morning and afternoon.) The Junxion boxes have been outfitted with a cellular air card allowing passengers to use their laptop computers or Wi-Fi-enabled devices to access the Internet.

In the coming months Metro, nationally known for pioneering a range of new technologies and information systems, will be looking at whether the addition of Wi-Fi on buses and vanpools influences ridership or makes riding the bus more productive and enjoyable.

The Wi-Fi service will be able to serve multiple connections at any given time. However, some laptop configurations and factors such as number of onboard users, signal strength and amount of data being downloaded could all have a bearing on Internet service and speed.

Metro will monitor ridership trends, cost, technical performance and other service considerations as part of the Wi-Fi pilot. The information gathered will help determine how and where Metro and other transit agencies may be able to successfully use Wi-Fi technology on transit routes in future years.

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Inside Transportation