BART train heading towards San Francisco  (Source: S.F. Chronicle)
The San Francisco Bay Area train system will have system wide Internet WiFi in the future

Do you ride public transportation?  If so, you may have noticed more buses and train systems that are utilizing wireless Internet access for customers to use while en route to their destination.  The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system -- a San Francisco Bay Area train system -- plans to expand its wireless internet to cover all trains and stations.

"This is a unique opportunity to demonstrate what high-speed Wi-Fi access, interconnected by a huge fiber optic backbone, can mean to a transit system and its passengers," Wi-Fi Rail Inc. CEO Cooper Lee said.

Some trains have Wi-Fi internet access already, but this 20-year agreement will cover 104 miles of track and all 43 BART stations with Internet by 2012.  Wi-Fi Rail will pay the entire cost of the $20 million internet installation, and BART riders will have the option of paying daily, monthly or annual subscription fees for the connection.

Wi-Fi Rail hasn't publicly announced exact pricing, but it appears users will pay $30 per month, $9 per day, $6 for two hours, or $300 per year for the service until it's fully operational.  Both companies will share revenue, but exact numbers were not revealed.

A free service will be available, but it offers a catch designed to get people to sign up for the day pass.  Internet will be available in 3 1/2 minute blocks before being turned off so a 30-second advertisement can be played before internet service is restored, the San Francisco Chronicle learned.

Rather than use satellite or cellular service to offer internet to riders, the company will install fiber optic equipment to offer more reliable, faster speeds.  Assuming it works well, Wi-Fi Rail hopes to use the BART system as an example when contacting future clients.

During a 12-month trial done in four downtown San Francisco stations and a couple miles of track in the San Francisco East Bay, 15,000 people registered for the free service while it was used 85,000 times per day, Wi-Fi Rail said.

BART and Wi-Fi officially signed the new contract on Friday, and will begin installation shortly.

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