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Hello from the road

August 4, 2009


I’ve got to apologize (do I?) for not posting since Thursday – I took a very long weekend away in scenic Scituate, MA. Trust me, it’s a lot prettier than that ancient Wikipedia postcard picture lets on. At any rate, I’m currently siting on an MBTA commuter rail train, or simply “the T”, as all public transport round Boston is confusingly referred to as, writing this post. It’s not going to be published later, no, they’ve seen the wave of the future (present?) up here, and have free, open-access WiFi networks on all the commuter trains. This means I don’t have to blind myself trying to read the news on my iPhone’s relatively miniscule screen to pass the time, I can stare at the real internet for an hour. While this is a nice service for the MBTA to offer (and only for a $6.75 one-way ticket!), it’s amazing to me that in the hour I’ll have to wait at the train station, and the five and a half that I’ll be on an Amtrak train, I’ll either have to jailbreak my iPhone and run up my bill astronomically, or do something without the internet, like read one of those things with paper and ink that the New York Times always goes on about, something like an iBook, without the ‘i’. I don’t know.



It annoys me that my Amtrak ticket, which cost about seven times more than my T ticket, comes with fewer benefits than this commuter rail train built in the 70s, and full of that fake plastic wood panelling that I hate so much. Granted, Amtrak trains have plugs for every seat, but what good is being able to power my computer if it can’t communicate with any others? Considering the rise in Amtrak ticket sales is directly related to the high cost of gas, I’d like to think that Amtrak has some ideas for how to keep people off of competing airlines and highways. Free wifi would go a long way, as it would draw those businesspeople who can’t stand to be disconnected for even an hour on the (rocky) flight from Philadelphia to Providence. It would also make the ridiculously expensive Northeast Corridor ticket prices seem at least a little bit more reasonable.

Having been sidetracked by all the wonderful internet out there, this took me a lot longer to write than I’d expected. I just looked up and noticed that this train is now packed, and at least half the people in my carriage are using computers. I wonder if Amtrak cares.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 4, 2009 3:08 pm

    The short version is that the T’s trains operate behind diesel engines, and Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor trains are electrified. That electrification creates an electromagnetic environment that is a very challenging to deliver reliable wifi connections. Several Acela trains are a few months into testing on-board wifi, and it’s getting closer to rollout. While 3G connections via cell are possible, they are very intermittent for most as those networks are easily confused by the rapid, highspeed handoffs from cell to cell as the train proceeds at 125mph.

    Anyway, Amtrak is working on it – it’s an oft-heard request.

  2. August 4, 2009 10:26 pm

    Well, very good to know. Thanks for the insight!

  3. johnny permalink
    August 7, 2009 3:47 am

    Hello. Thank you for this great info! Keep up the good job!

  4. August 9, 2009 4:30 am

    thank you! I really liked this post!

  5. August 10, 2009 6:28 am

    thank you! I really liked this post!

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