2006-06-30 / Community

Weiner Renews Call For Subway Cell Service

A year after the MTA requested bids, and three years since Representative Anthony Weiner first called for subway cell service, the MTA continues to drag its feet despite terror threats.

Weiner and State Senator John D. Sabini of Queens have urged the MTA to immediately act to provide the Big Apple's straphangers with a vital lifeline.

While other major U.S. cities have already signed contracts to install subway cell service, the MTA has repeatedly delayed implementation in New York City and hasn't even selected a winning bid yet. Six months after four proposals were submitted to the MTA, the transportation authority says it needs even more time decide.

 When it comes to the MTA, delays are nothing new. After opening the bidding process for subway cell service a year ago, the MTA postponed the deadline for submissions three separate times.

 The delays in the bid process come after the MTA spent two years rejecting Weiner's plan to provide a vital lifeline for New York's straphangers. Standing with former Transit Police Chief Michael O'Connor in 2003, Weiner unveiled legislation to bring cell phone service to the nation's underground subway platforms.

 Despite the safety benefits of wired subways, the MTA balked at the Weiner proposal, saying that the installation costs would be prohibitive for cellular carriers. Under sustained pressure, the MTA reversed itself in August 2005 and requested bids from cell providers.

 At this point in time, the MTA has all the information it needs to move forward, yet for unknown reasons, the delays continue.

With the MTA and NYPD limiting manpower in New York's subways, straphangers need the ability to report suspicious behavior and emergencies now more than ever. The MTA is phasing out two man subway crews in favor of one man crews on new trains and closing token booths, while the NYPD is eliminating officer assignments at underwater tunnels due to personnel shortages.

Recent attacks show that subways have moved to the top of the terrorist target list, with tragic subway bombings in Moscow, Madrid and London killing hundreds of people and injuring many more.

Last weekend, news came to light that Al-Qaeda planned a 2003 poison gas attack in the New York subway system using cyanide. According to new book "The One Percent Doctrine" by Ron Suskind, Al-Qaeda came within 45 days of executing the attack, but Ayman al-Zawahiri called it off because casualties were not expected to be greater than 9/11.

Congressman Weiner, joined by State Senator John Sabini, demanded that the MTA stop dragging its feet, select a winning bid, and immediately begin to wire New York's 277 underground subway platforms.

"Tragedies like the London subway attack and the latest revelations about a planned 2003 New York subway plot provide clear examples of why we need better communications networks in our subways," said Rep. Weiner. "Whenever there is a health emergency or people feel they are at risk, they should be able to reach first responders via 9-1-1, regardless of whether they are at work, in their home, or standing on an underground subway platform."

"Last year, while terrorist attacks were being planned in our subways and a series of rapes and robberies actually occurred there, one of the largest transit hubs in the city, Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Ave., went without any platform payphones or emergency intercoms for months," said Sabini, ranking member of the Transportation Committee. "During that time a woman who was hit by an oncoming E train died after it took too long for witnesses to leave the station and call 911. It remains critical that in an emergency, subway customers all over the city have some way to communicate with the outside world when on a platform."

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