By Richard Wronski / Chicago Transportation Journal
Want free Wi-Fi on your next Metra ride? Good luck and keep your eyes peeled.
After struggling to offer the amenity for years, Metra has announced it is running one Wi-Fi-equipped rail car on each of its 11 lines as part of a pilot program to test whether the commuter rail agency can provide dependable, free Internet access.
The only problem will be catching the cars with the mobile “hot spot.”
Metra says it will run the Wi-Fi cars several times a day on each line, but amid at least 800 coach and Highliner cars running on 700 trains a day, the hot spots might be a bit hard to find.
To make it easier, Metra says it will post signs on the Wi-Fi cars and position them at the end of the trains, opposite the locomotives. Conductors will also announce if their trains have a Wi-Fi car.
Metra says hot spot usage will be limited, generally to a one megabyte download speed per user.
This will allow users to check email and browse the Internet, but isn’t intended for streaming video, Metra warns. In addition, the agency cautions that there may be “dead zones” along the routes.
Metra Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno said customers are urged to provide feedback at www.metrarail.com/wifisurvey
“If it’s financially feasible and our customers like the free service, our agency would seek funding or sponsorships to install Wi-Fi on more of Metra’s railcars,” Orseno said.
To access the free Wi-Fi, riders…