A blog for better streets and public spaces in Portland, Maine.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Wi-Fi on the Downeaster

This item on the Downeaster Riders' Blog reports that our Portland-to-Boston passenger train service now (as of June 1st) includes wireless internet access in all cars:

"Finally, Wi-Fi should be up and running in all cars by June 1st. Each Sprint unit, attached to a window in each car, can handle 16 users simultaneously which means 80 riders can be on the Internet as they merrily ride the rails to Boston and return home. NNEPRA is providing this server FREE to Downeaster riders…"
The train takes 30 minutes longer than driving (or taking the bus) from Portland to Boston, which has been a factor in some peoples' decision to drive or take Concord Trailways instead.

But wi-fi service makes that difference irrelevant, by transforming travel time into productive working time - especially for workers in the new economy. It also offers up unlimited entertainment options (I appreciate the movies on Concord Trailways, but I'd much rather watch some of the internet's free television shows or listen to Pandora than watch a mediocre movie chosen by my bus driver).

The same Downeaster Riders blog entry reveals that April's train ridership was up 48.3% over last April, and for the fiscal year to date, ridership is up over 25% compared to the same period last year. Some of the gains seem to be coming from the Maine Turnpike, where weekend holiday traffic was down 4% since last year.

With this new wireless service, and the working and entertainment options it brings with it, I expect that ridership will begin to accelerate even more quickly.

For those of you who continue driving - you might be losing four hours of your life, but at least you've got the radio.

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