The agency's board voted Wednesday on an agreement with Cablevision to provide the equipment to allow passengers to use the Internet, send and receive email, and use other applications. In return, NJ Transit says it will gain dedicated use of fiber optic, copper and wireless transmission lines at no cost to support its operation.
The proposed contract is for 20 years and won't cost NJ Transit anything. The document describes Cablevision as "responsible for 100 percent of the capital and operating costs associated with development, installation, infrastructure improvements, materials and subsequent system maintenance."
NJ Transit selected Cablevision over the RAILband Group, an Illinois-based company.
The project is expected to be completed by 2016. It was unclear Tuesday when Wi-Fi was expected to be available on trains; NJ Transit's board agenda referred to the service being available at rail stations and on platforms and "ultimately onboard rail cars." The agenda also didn't specify whether non-Cablevision customers would be charged for the Wi-Fi service.
"We look forward to working closely with NJ Transit on completing this process so Wi-Fi access becomes another great benefit for all NJ Transit customers," Cablevision spokeswoman Kelly McAndrew said.
Some rail systems such as those in Boston, Seattle, Salt Lake City, Oakland and Miami had wireless capability by 2011, according to the American Public Transportation Association. Bus systems in smaller markets such as Austin, Texas; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Riverside, Calif.; Albany, N.Y.; and other locales already have Wi-Fi.
"People want convenience," APTA spokeswoman Virginia Miller said. "Wi-Fi availability on public transportation is one example of how technology is helping to make the passenger ride more convenient."
NJ Transit said a recent customer service survey found 67 percent of its passengers use Internet devices to get service information while commuting.
"Our customers have expressed interest in Wi-Fi access on our system and NJ Transit has listened and is pleased to put that item up for vote at Wednesday's board meeting," NJ Transit spokeswoman Nancy Snyder said.