It may be that no technological advancement in New York transportation history has been so equally desired and dreaded, but the ability to chat on a cellphone in the subway will finally be available — though in a very limited way — next week.
The wired underground project will begin on Tuesday at four stations in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, where subscribers to the AT&T and T-Mobile networks will be able to talk away on station platforms, transportation officials said.
Service will cease during trips in the tunnels, however, and anyone with a Verizon phone will be out of luck.
Providing the ability to rearrange meetings, converse with friends and be a bigger pest than usual to one’s fellow subwaygoers has been a long-sought goal of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
The pilot program will introduce cellphone reception to the C-E platforms at 23rd Street and Eighth Avenue, and three other stations along West 14th Street: the A, C, E and L platforms at Eighth Avenue; the F, M and L platforms at Avenue of the Americas; and the Seventh Avenue station that serves the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 lines.
The trial has no scheduled end date. The transportation authority says it hopes to extend the service to other parts of the system if it is deemed successful.
The program is starting about two years late. Transit Wireless, the company behind it, signed a contract in 2007 with New York City Transit and promised to begin a trial in downtown Manhattan by 2009.
The project stagnated until last year, when the company secured financing from an Australian wireless operator.