VRE moves ahead with WiFi plan
Virginia Railway Express officials will move forward with their plan to install free wireless Internet in some passenger rail cars.
During Friday's VRE Operations Board meeting, the board gave VRE Chief Executive Officer Dale Zehner approval to issue a request for quotes for the purchase and installation of multi-radio wireless routers.
The routers will be placed in the cab car and the car adjacent to the cab car on each train, VRE officials said. Zehner said once quotes are in and a vendor is selected, it should take 12 to 15 weeks to install the routers. The service, he said, should be in place by the spring.
Demand for wireless Internet on VRE trains has grown over the years, but a lack of cellular towers along both the Manassas and Fredericksburg lines has posed a challenge, Zehner said. Over time, however, Internet service providers have added more towers and technology has advanced, making it easier to use existing structure, VRE officials said.
Cellular coverage remains strong along both lines, with the exception of the tracks between the Leeland Road and Quantico stations. Zehner said Verizon plans to add an antenna near the Leeland station and once complete, that will eliminate any weak spots in the system.
The wireless Internet project will cost about $90,000 at the start and an additional $50,000 annually, VRE officials said, noting the funding is already available in the fiscal 2011 budget. Zehner said other transit agencies that offer wireless reported an increase in ridership and revenue as well as a decrease in complaints during service delays. Amtrak began offering free wireless aboard Acela trains earlier this year.