People ride a Metra train. Photo by Clark Maxwell.
Metra is looking for board approval to hire Xentrans to help them find the best solution and vendor who would test wi-fi service on one route. The contract is worth $200,000.
Xentrans has previously done work with the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), an agency providing bus, express bus, and light rail transit around San Jose, California. Wifi is available on all its Express coach buses (that are similar to Pace’s express routes that run on the I-55 expressway) and three light rail routes.
Xentrans doesn’t provide the infrastructure itself. According to its website, it manages projects and consults, providing “unbiased, vendor-independent, technology-agnostic consulting…for in-vehicle wireless system design and deployment”. Metra had previously solicited proposals to provide the wifi at no cost to the transit agency.
[Metra CEO Alex] Clifford is asking Metra’s board to hire Xentrans to oversee development of the project and find “the most qualified and competitive” companies to install a Wi-Fi system. Chicago Tribune.
Metra is required by law to provide wifi on trains, but only if it was at no-cost to Metra. It seems that Metra fulfilled that duty and is under no obligation to further develop wifi service.
The Pace express buses, routes 755 and 855, have free wifi; rides on these buses cost $4 each way. Riders with multi-day passes pay a surcharge to board. Frontrunner commuter trains in Utah also provide free wifi.
I presume that Xentrans will also help Metra study an appropriate charge to riders for the service. The high-speed trains I rode in Germany were hooked into the worldwide T-Mobile Hotspot network, with relationships with other wifi providers like Boingo. Skype has a wifi service that uses your account balance to pay for access on compatible wifi networks.