Muni Riders, Your Long Cell-Free Underground Nightmare May Be Over

Save ArticleSave Article

Failed to save article

Please try again

This article is more than 7 years old.
Muni's Van Ness stop is one of the underground stations' that would get cellular coverage under a proposal announced Wednesday.  (Roshan Vyas/Flickr)

Cell service could be coming soon to one of the last places in the truly civilized world that still lacks it: San Francisco Muni's tunnels and underground stations.

That's the bottom line of a proposal announced Wednesday under which BART, which finished installing cell service in its tunnels and the Transbay Tube in 2010, will partner with Muni to extend coverage to the city-run transit system.

The plan would allow BART to negotiate with cellular carriers to install equipment in the Muni tunnels and underground stations.

Mobile service for Muni's underground passengers has been promoted as a safety enhancement -- allowing passengers freer communications in emergencies -- as well as a convenience for those wanting to tell their bosses and dates they'll be late because of a delayed train.

Muni has said in the past it simply didn't have the money to install an underground cellular network. The new plan would get past that hurdle by having BART take the lead on the project and getting the telecoms who would benefit from the new service to pay for it.


The proposal was unveiled by Board of Supervisors President London Breed, Nick Josefowitz, one of San Francisco's representatives on the BART board of directors, and Ed Reiskin, head of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. The SFMTA board will consider the plan at its meeting next Tuesday.

If approved, BART would begin negotiations with telecoms that use its "neutral host" underground cellular network. Those firms include all the big carriers, including Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Metro PCS. Construction of the new Muni network would take 12 to 18 months after an agreement is reached, BART and the city say, with all costs borne by the carriers.

To read the statements from Supervisor Breed et al. in the Wednesday press release, officials see this as a done deal. To wit:

“My office has been working closely with Muni and BART for a couple years to bring cell service to Muni subway riders,” said Board President London Breed. “Our plan not only improves the rider experience; it will actually make money for Muni. It’s truly a win-win, and I want to thank Director Josefowitz and all the BART staff, Sonali Bose and Ed Reiskin at SFMTA, and my Chief of Staff Conor Johnston.”

“We have heard from our riders who have asked for cell service in the subway for some time, so we are working to deliver this amenity in partnership with BART,” said SFMTA Director of Transportation, Ed Reiskin. “Providing cell service within the Muni Metro will help improve communications to our Muni riders, can assist in emergency situations, and will give the riding public an additional service they want.”

“Today is about governments working together to make common sense improvements to peoples' lives,” said BART Director Nick Josefowitz. “I'm proud to have helped put together this collaboration that will have BART infrastructure and know-how put to work helping Muni riders on their daily commutes.”