The BART board approved plans to bring WiFi to stations and trains on Thursday. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

The BART board approved plans to bring WiFi to stations and trains on Thursday. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

BART board signs off on WiFi service plan

Agency working with Muni, wireless vendor to provide cell phone, data service in tunnels and trains

WiFi is coming to BART and cellphone service to Muni train tunnels after a vote by the BART Board of Directors Thursday.

The various projects to expand digital access have been a long time in the making, however, and are still some years off. San Francisco officials gave their approval as far back as 2016.

BART, Muni and wireless infrastructure vendor Mobilite are working together to bring WiFi service to BART’s Fleet of the Future trains, offer BART station wireless services, expand cell service into Muni tunnels and make money off of all of those efforts.

BART staff estimate the contract could generate $243 million in revenue over the course of its 20-year term.

Within two years Muni train riders will gain cell service in the Sunset Tunnel, Twin Peaks Tunnel and in the soon-to-open Central Subway.

BART station wireless is expected within four years, and BART train wireless access is expected in five years.

No longer will riders need to warn people on cell phones that “I’m about to lose you,” BART director Robert Raburn said at Thursday’s meeting.

BART directors Janice Li and Mark Foley expressed interest in free WiFi options.

“I would be against charging BART riders for any wi-fi ever,” Li told BART staff.

BART staff have not yet developed payment plans for wi-fi, but said one tier of service would be free. Data restrictions may be developed and some plans may require payment.

joe@sfexaminer.com

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