Miami Today reports that Metrorail will install “free” wireless internet service at all stations in 2010 and then eventually on all trains by 2011. The Wi-Fi hotspots will cost about $2 million. Susanna Guzman-Arean, who handles Miami Dade Transit’s strategic planning and performance management, makes an interesting argument for the wireless service:
It’s a lot better to sit on the train and be productive than be sitting in traffic, we think that it would motivate people to get out of their cars.”
Unfortunately, Wi-Fi alone will not motivate people to get out of their cars. If Metrorail is serious about adding riders, they should begin by lowering their prices. A one way ticket costs $2; the same price as the subway in NYC. According to U.S. Census Bureau, 2003 American Community Survey, the median annual household income in Miami is $23,774, compared to $39,937 in NYC. Not only is the Metrorail considerably more expensive relative to wages, but we get a lot less “bang for our buck”. The level of service which Metrorail provides is inferior. For $2 in NYC you are provided access to a more extensive transportation system. Lowering prices is the first step.
Improving the quality of the existing service is the second step to increase ridership. I mentioned to a coworker who commutes daily on the Metrorail that Wi-Fi would be available on all trains. Julio was not impressed. He told me he would rather see the air conditioning work and the trash on the trains picked-up. Valid point. This should be a priority, not Wi-Fi. This is not to say that commuters won’t use this service. Some will, but in the new era of smart phones, fewer people will find the need to use their laptops.
Ridership will increase if two conditions are present:
1) If there is a financial incentive (i.e. cheaper then commuting by car)
2) If the quality of service is reliable and improved (i.e. commuting
time should be comparable if not faster then driving a car and trains should be on time, clean and the air conditioning should work)
Even with the “free” wireless internet service, Metrorail commuters are paying too much for the service which is provided to them. The $2million would be better allocated to the daily maintenance of the trains. There are certain factors that encourage ridership; Wi-Fi alone is not one of them.
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