Hotspots Hit Metro Buses

You know that frustrating feeling: You’re in transit and really need to use your laptop, but you have to wait until you can get to a hotspot. Well, in Seattle, if you hop on a Metro Bus, you’re in luck: Wi-Fi has come to the Emerald City’s bus lines.

Metro, which puts more than 1,000 buses on the city’s roads each day, is working with Sound Transit, also of Seattle, on a five-month trial to test Wi-Fi on two of the city’s most popular routes – both of which go through the well-traveled University District, as well as an in-city route and a longer, suburban commuter route.

The idea was hatched by high-tech enthusiast Ron Sims, a prominent King County executive who contacted Metro’s Rochelle Ogershok about setting up the free service for commuters. During the pilot project, Metro’s staff will gather riders’ opinions about the service to determine whether they should add free laptops to all of Metro’s buses.

And if all goes well, Sound Transit plans to launch Wi-Fi laptop access on five more buses this fall – on Route 545, between Redmond and downtown Seattle. Though the pilot project is costing Metro $60,000, both Ogershok and Sims agree it’s definitely money well spent for Seattle’s computer-savvy residents.

The county has already positioned Wi-Fi-enabled spots in the populous Marymoor Park, in county jury rooms at the Regional Justice Center, and at the King County Parks Aquatic Center.

And Metro doesn’t want to be left behind. After administrators compile riders’ opinions and experiences about the service, such as any problems with maintenance, or any difficulties encountered with multiple users on the same route, they’ll deliver their report to the county and Sound Transit, who, with contractors Junxion Inc., may indeed get the “green light” on the project – and Seattle’s buses will soon be Wi-Fi laptop paradise.

By Catherine Van Herrin

Monday, September 19, 2005