An article in the local newspaper yesterday detailed the initial steps being taken to offer WiFi on Amtrak trains in Illinois. Overseen by the Illinois Department of Transportation, a blueprint for the project is expected in the coming weeks along with cost estimates.
“Once we get the data from each of the potential vendors, we’ll determine what’s feasible and what an appropriate timeframe would be for that to be in place,” said IDOT spokesman Josh Kauffman.
While trains in the coastal states have been offering free WiFi for a while, the project is just now requesting bids here in the Land of Lincoln. Some of the trains currently offering the service request that passengers not hog the bandwidth with streaming video or downloading large files. While most are offering the service for free, some are off-setting costs with ads.
As the project is in the very early stages, bids to study what installation and maintenance of broadband access for passenger trains across the state would require are due mid-June.
I took an Amtrak train from Central Illinois to the Mall of America in St. Paul, Minnesota last Fall and can state from experience that WiFi on trains would be a great value-adding feature. Although I had the hardest time getting a reliable 3G connection in some stretches of Minnesota and Wisconsin, it would still be great to have faster WiFi since moving at 75MPH can have you hopping from different cell towers every few minutes. Then again, I didn’t have access to an outlet to charge my phone for every stretch of the ride either so my phone was often dead and WiFi would not have done me any good. Perhaps the basics of electric outlets on all trains should be a first priority.
Find the rest of the details in the full article in the Journal Gazette-Times Courier by Kurt Erickson.