Washington-based Mobilisa, successfully demonstrated this week the new Washington State Ferries’ Wireless Connection Project. Mobilisa’s system is currently in-use on the Port Townsend-Keystone ferry route onboard the M/V Klickitat.
Mobilisa was chosen by the Washington State Ferries and the Federal Department of Transportation to install wireless internet onboard three major ferry routes — Seattle-Bainbridge Island, Edmonds-Kingston and Seattle-Bremerton. Recently, the system went live on the Port Townsend- Keystone route to test its capabilities.
Mobilisa is testing two forms of ship-to-shore wireless communications to determine the best format for the wireless internet service. Regardless of the mode chosen, both will allow users to surf the internet, check their email or check the current ferry schedule, all at speeds many times faster than a dial up connection.
“Our goal is to improve the ridership experience,” stated Jim Long, Washington State Ferry System’s Technology Director. Commenting on the live test, Long said “it was great and I am quite impressed with the progress so far.”
How much would it cost to Unwire Tri-Met, my local transit agency?
The small Possio AB (right), a Linux-based access point, can provide local WiFi and connect to the backbone using 3G (EV-DO) mobile backbones for a couple hundred dollars.
Perhaps a load-balancing router would help. Products like the Xincom – XC-DPG402 ($150) a 4-Port 10/100Mbps Twin WAN Router (below), can combine two different backbones into one. Perhaps combining a cellular and a 802.11/802.16 backbone would provide a more stable backbone for mobile platforms.
Providing two (or more) wireless backbones is how European trains do it. Bob Cringeley uses the Xincom box. It works with his Vonage (VoIP) adapters, too. That’s how WiFi on Trains provide constant connectivity.
Let’s say both EV-DO and 802.16e backbones are available in a year or two, and hardware could be provided in a turnkey device for $2,500-$5,000 (with installation) per car. That’s $500,000 for a fleet of 100 cars. Add $200,000 or so for management and operations. TriMet’s MAX light rail carries about 80,000 riders each weekday about 27 percent of TriMet’s total daily trips.
For easy math, lets say light rail ridership is 100,000 passengers daily. If 10% of them paid $10/month, that’s $100,000 a month. If the agency provided “free” service, Tri-Met might make more money. That’s because transit agencies generate most of their revenue from taxes, based on ridership numbers. If it were free, the transit agency might also eliminate tunnel coverage, an infrastructure that could double costs.
I wonder why a transit agency can spend millions on “public art” (which I think is a good thing), but not a dime on WiFi. Could The People be ahead of transit management?