Cell service could arrive soon for Muni Metro riders

Most Muni riders know all too well to not start cellphone conversations when entering the subway — or even bothering check their phones for service.

An announcement Wednesday morning by San Francisco Board of Supervisors President London Breed and BART board Director Nick Josefowitz could bring cell service inside the Muni Metro by extending BART’s existing cell infrastructure into Muni’s subway.

Next week, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Board of Directors will consider to allow BART to negotiate and to enter into license agreements with cellphone carriers on behalf of the SFMTA.

BART already has agreements with major cell networks such as AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile and Metro PCS to provide cell service for riders.

Breed said in a statement that Muni riders for too long been cut off from communication as trains head inside the subway:

“They can’t read emails on the way to work, let their employer know their train is delayed, or text their family on the way home. It’s unfair, and it’s very outdated.”

SFMTA’s Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin said in a statement that the transit agency has heard from riders for cell service for quite sometime now:

“Providing cell service within the Muni Metro will help improve communications to our Muni
riders, can assist in emergency situations, and will give the riding public an additional service they want.”

Josefowitz said in a statement that he was proud of being part of this partnership and to help Muni riders on their daily commutes:

“Today is about governments working together to make common sense improvements to peoples’ lives.”

Cell service won’t arrive overnight. The work to extend BART’s cell service into the Muni subway will take 12 to 18 months once an agreement is in place with all the cell phone carriers.

Cellular carriers are expected to cover the costs and expected to pay annual licensing payments for operating on the network. The contract would last for a 15-year term with two five-year options.

After the SFMTA board vote, the Board of Supervisors will also need to vote on this agreement.