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AC Transit: wi-fi king

By enelson
Tuesday, May 29th, 2007 at 5:32 pm in AC Transit, BART, Caltrain, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), ferries, rail, technology.

ac-transit-wi-fi-door.JPGWhile I was busy oohing and aahing over BART’s little Embarcadero-to-City Center wi-fi test, I neglected a new wi-fi service that

A. Was actually a service, and not just a test.

B. Is free, which BART’s will not be.

The only drawback is that the service will only be on transbay bus lines, and then only on MCI (Motor Coach Industries) buses, the ones with the comfy, high-backed seats made for longer trips.

Good news is that there are 78 MCIs, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to get one of them on your way to work. The new service is somewhat groundbreaking, I was told. Rail services like Caltrain, Capitol Corridor and ACEhave been working on wi-fi for some time, even tantalizing riders with temporary periods of service. Service on buses, however, is somewhat novel.

I duly reported on this when I realized how much this would interest my fellow commuters, despite the fact that I was wrestling with MacArthur Maze and state transit budget cuts the same day.

Being the poor stepchild of long-haul commuting, AC Transit’s exclusive new service could go a long way toward breaking the ice with people on the verge of opting out of their single-occupant vehicles.

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15 Responses to “AC Transit: wi-fi king”

  1. david vartanoff Says:

    The real step children of AC are the local riders. AC hauls 12000 Transbay riders out of 227000 daily. The215000 local riders on the hard plastic seats might ask what “free” services they are getting while the miniscule Transbay ridership basks in cushioned comfort. AC’s planning documents (SRTP etc) always claim no cross subsidy from local fatres to transbay expenses. Anyone want to buy a bridge?

  2. Dennis Says:

    My guess is that they’re attempting to cater to the riders they’ve demmed the most likely to commute via Transbay lines, the working professional. Wherease local commuters blend in with customers who are often deemed the “lower common denominator”.
    A purely aristocratic move made to lure a niche group….

  3. Smix Says:

    I’ve seen the cushy-seeming MCI buses used on AC Transit’s local school runs (the ones with the three-digit route numbers).

    Fine with me– I hate climbing into the high, narrow doors of the damn things, and I’m not oversized in the least. God save the riders in wheelchairs trying to board MCI buses.

  4. Bruce De Benedictis Says:

    My understanding is that the MCI buses are relatively cheap per seat, but they are not very suitable for neighborhood service. Having once ridden one half-way across the bridge*, continuing on a high-floor NABI, I do not feel that their seats are more comfortable than the plastic seats. AC Transit is getting better seats on the newer Van Hools.

    *I have been on buses that have had flat tires on the Bay Bridge twice in my many years of riding, both west-bound. The next bus along stopped for us. My combined delay could not be more than 5 minutes!

  5. david vartanoff Says:

    I doubt the MCI gallons per mile are better than the standard 40′ coaches, nor do I believe they cost less per seat to purchase. The ONLY good news is they run so few hours per week they will not wear out/break down as soon IF their MDBF is similar.

  6. Capricious Commuter Says:

    David, thanks for posting another informed and thoughtful comment.

    For those of us who don’t delve into the finer points of transit management, could you please explain what MDBF is?

    I’m not embarassed to say that I had to Google it. In my line of work, we’re supposed to run screaming from such abbreviations.

  7. david vartanoff Says:

    mean distance between failures Most transport agencies track by builder/model/maintenance facility. In theory senior mgmt uses these data to choose vendors and decide which maintenance facilities need attention. Mileage for MDBF includes non-revenue trips–from the barn to the first pickup stop.

  8. Bruce De Benedictis Says:

    The MCIs have 10-15 more seats than even a high-floor 40′ coach. There are a lot of them sold to private operators, including Greyhound, which keeps the cost down. I suspect articulated buses are more expensive, and they are the only ones that have about the same number of seats.

    They are also made in the US, which means that federal funds can be used to purchase them.

  9. Aaron Priven Says:

    I’ve never understood why the “Buy America” rules aren’t a violation of WTO trade regulations.

  10. John T Says:

    It’s great to hear of Ac Transit’s service. I heard about it before when a couple of my friends who carpool to the peninsula sent me an email from their car driving beside an AC transit bus. Thankfully, it was the passenger sending not the driver.

    Having just returned from an overseas trip, I know that transit based wifi is technologically feasible and useful. I took an inter city train from London to Edinburgh and used the wifi provided by the train operator the whole way. It was really novel, sending an email while traveling at 130 mph.

    On the whole, if wifi can be provided at a fairly low cost to the transit agency, and preferably free to the rider, it would be a really good thing.

  11. Capricious Commuter Says:

    John, as the members of the California High-Speed Rail Authority will no doubt bitterly tell you, doing anything on the ground at 130 mph in this country, especially in California, is really novel.

  12. Rob Thompson Says:

    Here is the WestCAT response :

    Several of our drivers and staff members caught the news report this morning on AC Transit’s new Wi-Fi service, and thought we’d like to point out that the Western Contra Costa Transit Authority (WestCAT) has been offering free wireless internet service to riders on all of its WestCAT Lynx Transbay buses since January 2007.

    The Western Contra Costa Transit Authority (WestCAT) began testing the Wi-Fi technology in the fall of 2006 and started offering the free service in January 2007 on all of its transbay lines, which originate in Rodeo.

    The comments from the Lynx passengers regarding the free Wi-Fi have been overwhelming positive. WestCAT Lynx passengers themselves have commented on many occasions that the convenience of the free Wi-Fi onboard the buses is one of their primary reasons for continuing to use public transportation to work. It is allowing them to make productive use of their drive time.

    The Lynx service is a weekday commuter service to the Transbay Terminal in San Francisco operating every 15-30 minutes during peak morning and afternoon commute hours. The service starts in Rodeo in the morning, making a stop at the new Hercules “Victoria by the Bay” neighborhood and the Hercules Transit Center before departing to the San Francisco Transbay Terminal on the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane. In the afternoon, service starts from the San Francisco Transbay Terminal directly to the Hercules Transit Center, continuing to the Victoria by the Bay neighborhood, and ending on Willow Avenue in Rodeo. The service began operating on September 19, 2005, with a new schedule released on June 19, 2006 with more frequent service.
    WestCAT is a service of the Western Contra Costa Transit Authority, which provides local, express, and regional service to the cities of Pinole and Hercules and the unincorporated communities of Montalvin Manor, Tara Hills, Bayview, Rodeo, Crockett, and Port Costa. In addition, WestCAT operates regional service between Martinez and the El Cerrito del Norte BART station and between the Hercules Transit Center and Contra Costa College. Also, in September 2005 WestCAT began offering Lynx, our transbay service between the Hercules Transit Center and the San Francisco Transbay Terminal.

  13. Capricious Commuter Says:

    Who knew? Obviously not me. Sorry, WestCat. Obviously I should have done a bit more research of AC Transit’s claim.

  14. Rob Thompson Says:

    I guess the smaller agencies have to push that little bit harder to get information out there.

  15. Tim M Says:

    I think these comments regarding local vs transbay commuters and wi-fi are naive. Transbay is the obvious choice if you want to offer wi-fi:

    * Longer time on the bus
    * More space to deal with a laptop
    * Smoother operation – not bouncing around local streets, many stops.
    * More chance that the passengers have laptops to utilize.

    These are just the facts of the matter. Perhaps it is an “aristocratic” move, but it is sensible nonetheless. I’m one of the transbay commuters who utilizes the wi-fi on occasion, and I’d have to say even if the local buses that I also use (have to transfer local/transbay) offered wi-fi, I wouldn’t open up the laptop – the ride is far too bumpy, I’d have a headache within 5 minutes.

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