10 Reasons Why I Think the New BART Wi-Fi 20 Year Contract and Plan are a Bad Idea

How Deep Can You Go?

Rachel Gordon is out with an article over at the San Francisco Chronicle about a new 20 year contract signed by BART with some company called Wi-Fi Rail Inc. to offer wifi on the service. Rachel interviewed me for the article and I’m quoted in it about my thoughts about the service. I thought I’d take a second though to elaborate on BART’s new plan for wifi service.

1. $9 a day?!?!?! You’ve got to be f$%$^ing kidding me. That’s more than it already costs to ride BART a day. Similarly, $30 a month? Not thanks. I like my wifi as much as the next cat, but that’s just too expensive. I’m in a higher than average income range for BART riders and there’s no way in hell I’d pay that much money. Between paying to park at BART parking lots, increased BART ticket charges, and now super expensive wifi, it just won’t fly. Who does BART think they are in charging those high wifi connection rates? Holiday Inn or something. You expect to get fleeced when you pay for wifi at the hotel, but not on BART.

2. A 20 year contract seems like an incredibly stupid thing to commit to for any technology services period. Why not a 2 year or 5 year or if they must 7 year contract. Locking BART into a 20 year plan when technology is bound to improve in that time seems like a bad idea. Who’s negotiating these contracts anyways, government bureaucrats and politicians?

3. “BART riders in the future will be able take advantage of free Internet access – but with a catch. Access will be cut off after 3 1/2 minutes and the users will have to endure 30 seconds of ads before being able to surf the Internet.” Are you kidding me? At least in the beta program that I tested out on the system it took 3 1/2 minutes just to log on to their system (you had to relog on every time you used it — hello BART, there are these things called internet cookies, they’re yummy and can allow people not to have to resign on over and over and over again every single time). A lot of the time the system wouldn’t log on for me at all. Now, granted that was beta, but there is no way I’m going to go through a tedious sign on program and then 30 seconds of ads to surf the web for 3.5 minutes.

4. the 3G on my iPhone works in the above ground areas of BART as well as the underground areas near downtown. Tell me again why I’d pay that much money for just a wee bit faster connection.

5. Why am I going to pay $30 per month for BART wifi when most of the time I can’t even get a seat? Have you ever tried surfing the web with a laptop while standing up BART. Well… have you? Seats are next to impossible to get during commute hours unless you happen to start your commute out at the end of the Pittsburg Baypoint line in Antioch or wherever the hell it starts.

6. Why am I going to pay $30 per month for BART wifi when I’m already starting to take BART less because I can get a ride to and from work using casual carpool for free? BART’s getting more and more expensive which is driving people away from it. My iPhone works the entire trip while on casual carpool by the way.

7. “The company reported seamless service between the stations, even as the trains ran at high speeds,” says the article. Well, not if you count going from the Powell Street Station to the Embarcadero Station in my own experience using the service.

8. Why not try to at least in part work with one of the major telco providers here? I get free wifi at Starbucks because I use AT&T. Let the carriers subsidize some of the cost by letting their users have free or reduced fee service on the system. Didn’t Google want to put free wifi in all of San Francisco before our idiot SF politicians chased them away? Did anybody talk to Google before hatching this plan?

9. It sounds like, at least initially, the service will only serve downtown SF, the tube and downtown Oakland. These are the shorter commutes and the people less likely to pay up. The people more likely to pay are the ones with the longer commutes who are more likely to both get a seat and have longer time on the train to enjoy that free wifi service.

and finally…..

10. What good is free wifi on the BART system if the BART cops are just going to shoot you anyways. (ok, that was a really cheap shot and has nothing to do with this wifi service but I couldn’t think of another good reason why I don’t like the service and a 9 reason list isn’t nearly as cool as a 10 reason list.)

To check out my photos of BART click through here.

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  1. 20 years for any contract is crazy let alone something that is involved with WiFi that isn’t even 5 years old. That doesn’t seem smart, and number 10 just feels right.

  2. Brad says:

    Definitely a contract everyone will regret down the road. Way down the road.

  3. Plug1 says:

    most of these points would also apply to the silly Wi-Fi enabled MUNI (10 Townsend line) that was launched last summer. especially #5.

  4. Paul says:

    Plus there’s the minor detail that BART is already rolling out cellular service in the tunnels. Even without data in the tunnels, there’s usually enough time for me to sync my RSS feeds via NetNewsWire on my iphone and check my twitter feed. I can then spend the time in the tunnel reading my feeds and new emails until the train hits the next station and I get access again. When the cell networks fully extend into the entire tunnel system, that expensive-assed Wi-Fi will be completely useless.

  5. Good points. I don’t see how BART hopes to keep riders with their crazy pricing and horrible service. The morons that make the decisions over there need to go visit a city with a real public transit system and take some lessons.

  6. Dave says:

    Yah, a 20 year contract is total BS. The thought of this technology even being around for more than five is unlikely. The cost is also ridiculous – it should be FREE! Your right, it can be subsidized by advertising. Also you are also correct, how are you going to use your laptop standing in a crowded packed car?

  7. Catharine says:

    so do most folks think that wiFi is a bad idea? or that they just don’t want to pay for it? and if they don’t want to pay for it, who do they think should?

  8. Anon says:

    Lets do some math:

    22 days, the average number of workdays in a month
    $30 per month = $1.30 per workday

    1) Provides unlimited UMA (universal mobile access) calls for a TMobile customer, which reduces the total bill for those who talk alot.

    2) Provides a SIP alternative phone for those who don’t want a regular cell

    3) Provides access to do work

    4) Provides access to make an online order at a restaurant or pick up tickets (or google search to call them)

    Is it a bit much, yes, but depending on the use it can also be a bargain.

  9. […] t‎h‎at‎ a‎l‎t‎h‎o‎u‎gh‎ a paid wi‎fi service h‎as‎ been‎ a‎nno‎u‎n‎ce‎…, at prese‎nt it is n‎ot‎ in o‎p‎e‎r‎at‎io‎n. […]

  10. Klaatu says:

    $30 a month just shows how out of touch with reality BART management is. For another $9, you can get a home DSL line.
    With the continous fare increases, it’s actually getting less and less practical to ride BART as it’s actually often cheaper to drive if more than one person going to the same destination.