Local

Los Angeles subway will get WiFi, cellular phone service

Red Line at 7th Street/Metro Center.
Red Line at 7th Street/Metro Center.
Todd Johnson/KPCC

The Los Angeles subway system will soon get Wi-Fi and cellular phone service, enabling passengers to make and receive calls and surf the Internet while underground.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has started work on a two-year project to bring Wi-Fi and cellular service to a series of underground stations and tunnel sections, the Los Angeles Daily News reported Sunday.

The project, which will start with four stops on the Red Line, will enable passengers to dial 911 from a train or underground platform, the newspaper said.

A number of cities already offer Wi-Fi and cellphone service on their subway systems. Firefighters responding to a recent electrical malfunction in the Washington subway system that caused heavy smoke, killing one passenger and sickening dozens, used cellphones after they had difficulty communicating by radio.

Work on the project in Los Angeles was delayed nearly two years while officials dealt with issues related to security and interference with first-responder radio conversations, said Robert Fischer, Metro's systems project manager.

Wi-Fi will be accessible at station platforms but not in a moving train, Fischer said. Uninterrupted cellular service will be available from the street to the platforms to inside moving trains, he said.

The newspaper reported passengers often huddle at the top of station escalators searching for missed messages and calls, said Kim Upton, a Metro spokesperson.

"The Twitter crowd is interested," Upton said. "They've been asking for it for a while."