Stand Clear of the Ringing Phones

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Photo: Motorola.com

Four companies submitted bids back in January to wire the subway for cell service — that is, depending on your point of view, to either modernize your commute or to make it a living hell. And say what you will about the MTA, but it's certainly taking the proposal seriously: It's been "in discussions" with the bidders for ten months, without any visible result.

But as today's Times tells us without really telling us, there's a presumptive front-runner in the process, a company called Transit Wireless, which has hired Al D'Amato as a "consultant" (not, mind you, as a lobbyist). The former senator, the company says (and the Times poker-facedly passes on), will limit his input to "strategic advice" and a litany of grade-A connections, including his close friendship with MTA chairman Peter Kalikow, from whom his company rents office space. Oh, and Al's been pushing for subway cell service since 2004, arranging early meetings with the future bidders and the MTA. But other than that, advice only.

So, anyway, what have they accomplished in ten months? Well, not much. The MTA hasn't even decided if it's wiring the whole system or just stations. But of course not: It's too busy putting enough cameras to shoot a sitcom on every bus. Not to mention pottering around with little projects like linking the trains to airports, getting the L to run on weekends, and, oh, yeah, planning that little line on Second Avenue. Priorities, priorities.

Cellphone Service in Subway Stations Is Still a Gleam in the Bidders' Eyes [NYT]