Can You Hear Underground? Cell Service Coming to Most Midtown, UWS Subways (Mayor Spared)

Somehow, this is so cool. (Getty)

You thought the four subway platforms with cell phone service were bad? Within the year, the entire Upper West Side and most of Midtown will be wired for service, too. Grab those earplugs!

(First off, is this really as annoying everyone is making it out to be? Why is it we will all blithely use the service when it suits us, but furrow our brows and shake our fists at the guy next to us doing so? Ah, New York.)

The M.T.A. and its partners at Transit Wireless have selected 31 platforms in 26 stations stretching from 96th Street to 18th Street, almost entirely on the West Side. Each of the N, Q, R, 1, 2, 3, and B, D, F, M station within this area will have service, as well as overlap with the appropriate A, C, E, 7 and shuttle train platforms, such as the A, B, C, D along Central Park West or the convergence of lines at Times Square. (Yes, Times Square station will be that much more obnoxious. One misery hole that will be spared? Penn Station) The full list:

5 Av (N)(Q)(R)                                       59 St-Columbus Circle (A)(C)(B)(D)
7 Av (B)(D)(E)                                        66 St (1)
18 St (1)                                                    72 St (1)(2)(3)
23 St (1)                                                    72 St (B)(C)
23 St (N)(R)                                             79 St (1)
28 St (1)                                                    81 St (B)(C)
28 St (N)(R)                                             86 St (1)
34 St-Herald Sq (B)(D)(F)(M)             86 St (B)(C)
34 St-Herald Sq (N)(Q)(R)                   96 St (1)(2)(3)
47-50 Sts (B)(D)(F)(M)                         96 St (B)(C)
49 St (N)(Q)(R)                                       Times Sq-42 St (1)(2)(3)
50 St (1)                                                     Times Sq-42 St (7)
50 St (C)(E)                                              Times Sq-42 St (A)(C)(E)
57 St (N)(Q)(R)                                        Times Sq-42 St (N)(Q)(R)
57 St (F)                                                     Times Sq-42 St (S)
59 St-Columbus Circle (1)

Now call us conspiratorial, but The Observer could not help but notice that the Lex has been saved from the cellphone scourge. Being the busiest subway line in the city, it would seem there would be good reason to be wired. Then again, those stations are already so crowded, it would make them only more aggravating, right?

But what if there is an ulterior motive going on here? After all, the Lexington Avenue line has gotten preferential treatment in the past, with generally more reliable service, as well as those nifty countdown clocks. It is also the subway line Mayor Bloomberg very conspicuously takes (except when he doesn’t), as well, it should be noted, as the M.T.A. brass, holed up as they are on Madison Avenue. Perhaps they do not want to be privy to the personal lives of a million or so New Yorkers.

There is actually a far simpler explanation: it has to do with fiber optic cables. Each platform is served by seven to nine “wireless hotels,” which are connected to the cell network above ground. It is easier to string this network together than to build it piece by piece, and thus cellphone service will snake out from its current locations on along 14th Street and at 23rd Street and 8th Avenue. Why this cuts out Penn Station was not immediately clear, but the service will roll out with the wires from here over the next 12 months.

“In essence, there has to be some geographic proximity,” M.T.A. spokesman Kevin Ortiz said.

As for the outerboroughs, service will get there someday, but there is less demand, as well as plenty of elevated stations—another annoyance!that have had service as long as there have been cellphones.

mchaban [at] observer.com | @MC_NYC

Can You Hear Underground? Cell Service Coming to Most Midtown, UWS Subways (Mayor Spared)