Metro buses unplugging for 'net users

The Mirror

Buses on two Metro Transit routes serving Federal Way and other south King Couinty areas have begun offering wireless Internet access.

Beginning with Wednesday afternoon’s commute, the first two buses on routes 48 and 197 launched the service for passengers who have laptops or other wireless devices. 

In addition to Federal Way, the routes serve the Kent-Des Moines and Star Lake locales, plus the University of Washington and the Loyal Heights, Columbia City and Rainier Beach areas of Seattle.

Over the next several weeks, Metro will install small mobile connection boxes from wireless provider Junxion on 29 buses, with instructions for how to log on. 

This fall, Sound Transit will similarly equip some of its buses running between Redmond and downtown Seattle, officials said.

Metro’s service a pilot project scheduled to last until February. Officials said it will help pinpoint limits of wireless Internet service on mass-transit buses.

John Daly, a Junxion vice president, said the project could also help more than 1,000 transit agencies nationwide understand how wireless technology could work on their buses.

Urban and suburban bus routes were chosen for the Metro project to gauge ridership, service and passenger experiences over the next five months, according to officials. In addition to filling out on-line surveys, passengers will be invited to participate in a more detailed survey about the program. The resulting information –– including whether wireless on buses makes riding the bus more productive and enjoyable –– will help determine how and where the technology might be used in the future, officials said.

Separately, the city of Federal Way is working on its own pilot project to offer wireless service to subscribers in or around downtown. Connections will be free to volunteer users who will help determine if the system works.

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