iTrains needed


Aucklanders use laptops but can't charge them

ARC Chair Mike Lee wants Auckland’s new electric trains to be iPad-friendly.

Studying the KiwiRail specifications in its procurement document for the new trains, Mr Lee says it needs to specify that the new rolling stock must be designed for the modern wired needs of commuters.

That means making them compatible for laptops, iPhones, Blackberries, iPads etc.

Mike Lee, himself an iPhone user,  says modern overseas rail has been designed so people can work on their laptops or whatever and charge them as they travel.

Wellington’s Capital Connection has this facility and the recent discussion about a Waikato-Auckland commuter service also raised the need for people to be able to work on board for the long journey.

But some US Metro commuter services go further and now provide Wi-Fi.

This month, New Mexico’s Rail Runner commuter line serving Albuquerque and Santa Fe offered free WiFi service to its 4,500 riders.

Next month, New York’s rail authority will ask for tenders  from companies that want to offer Wi-Fi to the 300,000 daily commuters on the Long Island railroad line  and Metro-North lines, the nation’s busiest.

A 2007 study, conducted for the Illinois Department of Transportation at the direction of the legislature, concluded that providing broadband Internet access on Metra and Amtrak could “have positive impacts on traffic congestion, traffic safety, the economy, and other aspects of the quality of life Illinoisans enjoy.

San Francisco’s rail authority estimates 71% of its commuters carry a laptop, PDA or WiFi-capable device. Some Silicon Valley workers use the Altamont Commuter Express, which has provided WiFi since 2003 aboard its trains between Stockton and San Jose.

Expect iPads to be popular on the new trains

Boston’s rail service has extended WiFi on its trains and now runs at least two WiFi cars per train on its 13 lines. On the outside of the cars is an AT&T logo to designate it has the service.

A new high-speed private rail service  just announced for Italian cities will have  satellite access, Wi-Fi, a cinema car, chef-made cuisine and Internet ticketing.

Mr Lee also wants rail workers to be included in the steering committee for the new trains saying “we can’t have old fashioned attitudes by having just suits make all the decisions.”




  1. William M says:

    I’m an Apple systems engineer. I’d love for the trains to be iPad-friendly. I can see economic potential in the idea, and it could be kind of fun. However, whilst Joycey is getting scared and regretting the mistake of revoking the regional fuel tax, lets just get the trains on the tracks first though, eh?

  2. Joshua says:

    Cant see it being to hard to add WiFi to the trains, and I cound definately see it as being a draw card for casual and buisness commuters,

    I know I’d use the service!

    Not sure of the extra costs, but it would definately be successful, no doubt about that.

  3. James Pole says:

    I’m curious at the constant references to the iPad. What makes you think it’ll be very popular? Most of the people I know took one look at the iPad and concluded their smart phone or netbook (or hell even a full laptop) was more useful.

  4. Jon C says:

    @James Pole I was totally cynical until I started playing with it. I thought my iPhone was sufficient. After five minutes of expecting to be unimpressed, I’m convinced an iPad type device will be huge. Its amazing for watching video, playing games (watch out Nintendo etc ) and reading is a breeze.
    I can’t wait to have one for the train!

  5. Sam F says:

    WiFi on trains is a great idea. Perhaps have it partly ad-supported as per the Boston model (Telecom/Vodafone branding or whatever by the door or on the carriage floors by the doorways)?

  6. ingolfson says:

    Train wifi could work with other payment methods too - after all, the huge majority will be repeat customers who may easily be willing to enter into a reasonable-price subscription agreement, seeing that they will be using it all the time. Maybe offer a few minutes free for testing purposes (you could make it free for 10 minutes out of every hour) to allow people to get a feel.

  7. Carl says:

    Can we see the trains first, before we start talking about anything else? I mean… anyone seen any of the power cables up yet?

    this guys seems to me like he is going to trip over himself before anything even happens.

    yes great idea, but get a ticketing system that works, with gates at each station and a system that runs on time and every 10-15 mins, we before start carrying on about stuff like this.

    my other thing is, the train from Pukekohe to Auckland or the future hams to auckland (positive thinking!) should have a set of toilets in one carriage.. over an hour can be a bit long and know a few times i’ve had had to get off somewhere else ‘go’ and get back on….

  8. Joshua says:

    Carl -

    I actually think it’s the perfect time to be pushing for it if we are sending out the tenders now! It wouldn’t be the first time Auckland hasn’t future proffed our infrastructure needs, and I think it would help give a major boost to rail patronage.

  9. William M says:

    Carl - my comment was related to the fact that until our rolling stock and infrastructure is working efficiently, wifi is simply a nice-to-have. Perhaps it could be mooted that it could attract those businesspeople that like the idea of catching up with work on the way to work. My point is that it’s been a long, hard slog enough to get these damn EMUs without adding a few more dollars to the cost enough to make our dear friend who must not be named force certain authorities to reconsider the size of our order of EMUs, etc. Lets get it right first time - passengers demand punctuality and comfort out of their trains. Once we get those major key performances right, we can think about creature comforts.

  10. rtc says:

    We should also be looking to provide hotspots at train and bus stations especially ones like Newmarket, Britomart, New Lyn etc.

  11. Carl says:

    guys - don’t disagree with the idea, (as you probably guessed) I do relate a lot of comments to the current city im in (perth) sometimes.

    we don’t have it here, don’t actually think its ever been talked about… but yeah, all good ideas, the hotspots idea is def something that could be pushed and possibly should already be in placed.

    forgive if im wrong, but mobile broadband is massive here and really cheap ( its actually ava. prepaid) is that even in NZ yet?

    again please don’t flame me for saying that Im not a 100% what is the go back home at the moment.

  12. rtc says:

    Mobile broadband is available in NZ and also with prepaid, however, it’s not quite the same as having hot spots all over the city.

    Germany has had hot spots in their trains for donkey years. It’s not a big deal to retrofit trains but we should be planning to provide it. I think providing power is less important except for long distance trains. Most laptops etc have batteries that last 7-10 hours which I would hope is sufficient for most commuter trips in Auckland.

  13. Joshua says:

    Also mobile internet is not cheap as such in NZ, available but not cheap.

  14. Willuknight says:

    The Airport bus in Wellington has wifi - it’s really awesome

  15. Jon - interesting to read this. At practically the same time as the ARC announced this, John Banks has announced WIFI for ferries is presently being investigated (as a part of the Auckland City WIFI programme), and under a supercity, would like to see Auckland WIFI rolled out along transport terminals around the region.

  16. rtc says:

    $49 a month for 2GB of mobile internet data is the typical price I think, personal opinion as to whether that’s expensive.

  17. rtc says:

    @Aaron - please don’t use this forum as a means for politicking.

  18. Joshua says:

    rtc - Whats the problem with Aaron’s comment? It’s related to the article and what we are discussing, and I found the link interesting, personally I didn’t know about the WiFi programme, so thanks Aaron for pointing that out to me.


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