New Twist On Free Train Wi-Fi


One of the reasons I hear people don’t want to use public transport is because they hate the idea of standing so close to strangers and having to try to avoid eye contact with nowhere else to look.

Thankfully most commuters these days have at least a mobile phone to stare at during their trip and occupy their attention. Auckland trains have only one train that is testing wi-fi and let’s hope this expands after the 6 months trial.

Although it’s fair to say most free public wi-fi locations I have tried have been very unsatisfactory, I popped into Queen St’s McDonalds the other day – a place I have to say I never eat at- because I urgently needed wi fi and everyone was complaining it didn’t work. And then the same happened to me at a downtown café which promised free wi–fi.

Public places have a capacity of people that can use it and a limit of personal usage and I never have any luck with the Auckland free wi-fi meaning either too many people are on at the time and the limit has been reached or it’s just too slow to bother with or even get activated.

Anyway back to that train journey –and I love the experiment this month in New York, thanks to a digital creative agency with the humourous name We Make Cool

They have placed at the back of the popular New York subway trains on the L line , a free public intranet, dubbed a “NotWork”, which lets any mobile device or laptop to connect.

The network pops up poems, essays and drawings but the big drawcard is a live chat-room for all passengers to use. It includes a “missed connections” section for those reaching out to any commuter that might catch their eye during their ride.

The aim: to encourage strangers to talk to each other. “When people ride the train during rush hour they are forced to be so close to each other but they rarely interact with each other. We wanted to give people something to talk about.”

By the way, if anyone here wants to set it up, it cost NZ$19,000.

Here’s their video explaining it. “L Train Notwork” Behind the Scenes from Matthew McGregor-Mento on Vimeo.




  1. Matt L says:

    I can’t comment about places like McDonalds but I have managed to connect to wifi on the train on the few times it has been available (which is about 4 times now I think)

  2. Bryan says:

    I managed to connect once, but it was so slow I gave up and went back to mobile broadband. lol

    What sort of society have they got in NY, that you have to go online to a chat room, instead of just saying Hi. I’ve made some good friends over the years, by talking to the people I meet regularly on the bus or train. :-)


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