Crime & Justice

LA subway Wi-Fi and cell service delayed again amid security concerns

Metro increased security at L.A.'s Union Station Tuesday in the wake of terrorist attacks in Brussels, targeting the airport and a subway station. Currently, subway passengers in L.A. have no way of using their cell phones to report threats.
Metro increased security at L.A.'s Union Station Tuesday in the wake of terrorist attacks in Brussels, targeting the airport and a subway station. Currently, subway passengers in L.A. have no way of using their cell phones to report threats.
Meghan McCarty/KPCC

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Los Angeles subway riders have no way to report suspicious activity and safety concerns using their phones, as a plan to put Wi-Fi and cell service in the tunnels has again been delayed.

The L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has been planning for more than a year to roll out service on the Purple and Red lines but protracted negotiations between the agency's contracted service provider and the cellular networks have pushed the project until at least April.

That weighed on the minds of passengers Tuesday as they reacted to the terrorist attacks in Belgium, which targeted the Brussels airport and metro.

​"If I were stuck or in a dangerous situation down here I would like to be able to reach out to someone," said Cora Vander Broek, who waited on the Red Line platform at Union Station Tuesday afternoon.

Metro officials rolled out extra patrols Tuesday morning as the news from Belgium broke. Officials said that until cellular service is available, passengers can use emergency intercom systems available on all Metro subway trains and platforms to call authorities.

The initial rollout for cellular service was planned for the Red Line trains and stations between  Union Station and 7th and Metro station. The date's been changed from March to April. 

The second phase of cell service is being planned for fall 2016. Cellular service would be extended to the Wilshire/Western station on the Purple Line and the Vermont/Sunset station on the Red Line. Metro officials said they hope to expand the service to the full subway system by 2017.

Metro has been piloting Wi-Fi service at Union Station since July. It is free for the first 15 minutes. Officials could not say when Wi-Fi service would be expanded to other stations and to subway trains due to ongoing negotiations with service providers.

Several other cities have added Wi-Fi and cell service to trains in recent years, including Chicago and New York. KPCC previously reported that research shows these technologies resulted in ridership increases in Chicago.

L.A. Metro has seen train and bus ridership drop in the last year and a half despite billions of dollars in investment.