Monday, April 26th, 2010
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Wi-Fi On Commuter Trains: This Way, You Can Never Leave The Office (If You Have A Job)

what could he be gazing at? porn? spreadsheets? SPREADSHEET PORN?The Chicagoland rail system Metra, thanks to some budget constraints and a refusal to bombard passengers with the sort of infotainment they're confronted with in elevators, won't have on-board wi-fi anytime soon. This even though a study commissioned for the state of Illinois claimed that doing so could "have positive impacts on traffic congestion, traffic safety, the economy, and other aspects of the quality of life Illinoisans enjoy." (Look at the "positive impacts" being experienced by the man in the photo at left, which was borrowed from a sales pitch for a company that provides this service!)

I am one of the few people who actually has a fondness for commuting — the dead time, the familiar sights passing by, the curt nods people give to one another as they settle into their seats — although that could be in part because I haven't had to regularly do so for about three years. (And counting!) But either way, I am of a few minds on this topic. Item A: If people have their heads in their computers on the way to work, they're that much less likely to yammer away on their cell phones as they nervously approach and retreat from their workaday lives. That would seem to be a plus! Item B: Is anyone's Internet-tethered job really that important that a memo or a spreadsheet can't wait? (The Tribune claims that some companies out there in the Bay Area provide "credit" for time spent on trains working, which sounds like a Mystical Unicorn Of Job Perks.) Item C: Is the push for on-train wi-fi just another sign that we're all becoming Internet-addicted idiots who are unable to have a social interaction with those people actually in our physical space — like these University of Maryland students?

"I clearly am addicted and the dependency is sickening," said one student. "Between having a Blackberry, a laptop, a television, and an iPod, people have become unable to shed their media skin."

Moeller said students complained most about their need to use text messages, instant messages, e-mail and Facebook.

"Texting and IM-ing my friends gives me a constant feeling of comfort," wrote one of the students, who blogged about their reactions. "When I did not have those two luxuries, I felt quite alone and secluded from my life."

That unnamed says that as if it's a bad thing! Although given my automatic reflex for taking my iPhone out of my bag as soon as the N train hits sunlight I probably am not one to talk.

12 Comments / Post A Comment

Matt (#26)

Suck it, computers! Commuting will always be mainly for sleeping off hangovers.

the teeth (#380)

This. If hungover, take the train. Otherwise, ride a bike.

(N.B. I haven't ridden my bike in months.)

Life is what happens when you're…wait, that babe in marketing just texted me.

petejayhawk (#1,249)

If Metra ever gets wi-fi, expect RedEye circulation to drop by 60% instantly.

That would be a good thing. The RedEye is an abomination against humanity.

Andrew Dalton (#1,640)

I gave up a fairly lucrative job because company-sponsored wireless internet on my CalTrain commute only made me realize what I was missing by commuting to Palo Alto every day.

ow that hurt (#3,919)

I just remembered that the last time I was in Los Angeles, they had TV on the
bus! Wow! Something called "Metro TV" which was a whole lot of
interesting/distracting/useless stuff. Like in every airport terminal and every
hospital waiting room. Keeping us distracted. What was my point? I forgot.

Jeff Barea (#4,298)

That was no tv, that was a future youtube video.

Jeff Barea (#4,298)

There's an ad up in Dallas for Clear(?) citywide WiFi that's up and running. It targets the youngs with tag lines like "Sneak out to the parking lot to watch a movie" and "video conference with your friends while hiding from the boss on the roof."

petejayhawk (#1,249)

Chicago already has Clear Wireless, but I don't know how far into the burbs it reaches.

Jeff Barea (#4,298)

Fun fact, my old friend and roommate ran the wires for that in the sewer system. I was up for a Marketing Exec position until the VP of their contractor found out my ISP rented out XXX webhosting…whatever…

Jeff Barea (#4,298)

Before you ask questions. The Scientology War was way more brutal than you think, but we kicked their asses all over the globe.

KarenUhOh (#19)

I ride Metra frequently. This is nothing. There are already easily 20 people per car booted up and running every rush hour train on e-cards. Another dozen or so fingersmudging smart phones.

As for the pastoral train experience, let me tell you, as one who uses that cushy four inches of vinyl to augment fitful night sweat sleep, NOTHING stops cellphone use on trains–including at 5:45 a.m. Nor does anything hinder the axiom that the LAST PERSON ON THE PLANET you want calling you at such an hour is inevitably the first to start blatting into the phone the hoary bulletin, "I'm on the train."

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