This week, the City of New York took further steps to build its reputation nationally as a top destination for free municipal Wi-Fi in confirming plans to add 2,000 new vehicles to its public bus fleet that will be equipped with free Wi-Fi connections and USB charging ports for passengers.
The initiative, which also calls for retrofits of approximately 1,000 express buses operated by the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), follows on the city’s plan to convert its aging and largely defunct network of public pay phones into free Wi-Fi hotspots through the “LinkNYC” project announced in November 2014. An MTA spokesman told reporters that the new, Wi-Fi-enabled buses will replace about 40% of the current MTA bus fleet. As part of a new pilot program, the MTA is also slated to equip at least 200 of the new buses with LCD screens that will provide passengers with data on upcoming stops, available transfers, news, weather, advertising and other information. Officials expect the first new buses will enter service next month with the remaining buses to begin operation by 2018. The express bus retrofits are scheduled for completion by 2017.
More than $1.3 billion is being invested in the project. Although most of the funds are being sourced by the MTA capital budget, the State of New York is contributing money as well. As New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio promised that the new MTA bus fleet “will provide critical tech services that New Yorkers depend on every day,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo applauded the upgrade as one that “will create a stronger, more convenient and more connected mass transit system for years to come.”