(Daniel Tucker -- New York, NY, WNYC) Six subway stations in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood now have free Wi-Fi as part of a program bringing cell phone, data and Internet access to 36 stations by the end of 2012.
Many subway riders were pleasantly surprised by the news as they went through the turnstiles at 14th Street and 7th Avenue to catch the 1, 2 or 3 trains on Monday. Igor Salay was already using the hotspot to check his email.
"Nice speed. Very fast," said Salay, 30, an MTA employee who fixes MetroCard machines. "Perfect."
Not everyone was so bullish on the new service.
"In the future, nobody will want to speak to each other," said 79-year-old Harold Arnold. He prefers talking to texting and wishes the subway would remain the last bastion against a connected culture.
He lamented that an above-ground trend — texting youths crashing into him on the sidewalk — might now extend to the subway platform. "People are like zombies walking around the city," he said.
The wired stops include stations at 6th, 7th and 8th Avenues at 14th Street, as well as the C/E station at 23rd Street.
Google Offers is sponsoring the first phase of the subway’s free Wi-Fi hotspots roll out — for a total of 36 stations. Wi-Fi provider Boingo will bring the service to 277 subway stations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx over the next several years.
US Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has stepped up federal efforts to combat distracted driving, which he says are responsible for ten percent of all traffic fatalities.
The Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving, released Thursday, builds on efforts first piloted in Syracuse and Hartford. It calls for more public awareness, police enforcement, and driver education about the dangers of texting while driving. It also encourages the 11 remaining states that lack anti-texting laws to pass them.
While a recent government survey found that teen seatbelt use is up and drunk driving is down, over half of all high school seniors admitted to texting or emailing while driving.
On his blog, LaHood wrote that deaths from distracted driving are entirely preventable. "In 2010, at least 3,092 people were killed on our nation's roads in distraction-affected crashes. That's approximately one in every ten fatalities, and we can put an end to it."
The DOT is also funding a $2.4 million pilot program in California and Delaware that will examine whether increased police enforcement coupled with advertising and news coverage can significantly reduce distracted driving.
The blueprint can be downloaded here (pdf).