Downtown SkyTrain tunnels finally get wireless service

Jul 23 2016, 8:13 am

Transit passengers traveling on SkyTrain’s Dunsmuir tunnel in downtown Vancouver, the underground span for the Expo and Millennium lines, can now use their smartphone’s wireless connection.

As of yesterday, wireless infrastructure installed inside the tunnel allows customers with Rogers to go online, make and receive calls, send and receive emails and text messages, and stay connected during emergencies.

The infrastructure covers the 1.4-kilometre-long tunnel span of four stations – Stadium-Chinatown, Granville, Burrard, and Waterfront – and the tracks between them, accounting for approximately six minutes of travel time in each direction. In terms of ridership, the former Canadian Pacific Railway tunnel is the busiest section of the SkyTrain system.

For the time being, only Rogers and Fido customers will be able to access the tunnel service. Other providers will have the opportunity to work with Rogers and TransLink to obtain access to their service for their customers.

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“We’ve heard from customers that increased access to cellular data and connectivity is important and we are pleased to be working with Rogers to make this a reality,” said Derrick Cheung, Vice-President Strategic Sourcing and Real Estate for TransLink, in a statement. “This partnership lays the groundwork for additional carriers to access the tunnel network so that eventually all our customers can experience the safety, security and convenience consistent connectivity affords.”

Wireless service is already found on the Canada Line’s 9.1-kilometre-long tunnel span stretching from Waterfront to Marine Drive stations, which takes about 17 minutes to travel through each way. However, the infrastructure was provided by Telus, with Bell, Rogers, and Wind later working with Telus to provide their customers with access.

For the other tunnel spans along the SkyTrain route, including the one-kilometre-long tunnel east of Columbia Station on the Millennium Line and the 2.2-kilometre tunnel section on the new Evergreen extension, TransLink will be working with Rogers for wireless coverage implementation.

In a post on The Buzzer blog, TransLink says wireless access was pursued instead of WiFi as a WiFi router has a limited range of only about 50 to 100 feet whereas a wireless network has a much larger range.


Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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