Amtrak Wi-Fi (WiFi) Availability

Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.

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jamesinclair
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Re: This Wi-Fi Stuff

Post by jamesinclair » Mon Jul 04, 2011 1:42 am

Gilbert B Norman wrote: Hey folks, do city subway systems, be they they NY, Wash, or Toronto, have that stuff? then who needs it.
Most subway trips are measured in minutes, not hours. And even then, a good portion of subway train riders have their eyes on a screen or paper. When I commuted in DC, I read the free metro every day, not stared out the window.

As someone else mentioned, the MBTA commuter rail does offer free wifi. And since you can be on board for up to 90 minutes, it's well used.

As for those bringing up the long distance route...you forget that the majority of passengers arent sight seeing tourists, it's coach passengers trying to get from Cowsville to HorseHamlet. Those 5 hours are for transportation, not scenery. They see the fields every single day, there's not much appeal in staring at them again from a train.

buddah
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Re: This Wi-Fi Stuff

Post by buddah » Mon Jul 04, 2011 9:13 am

Gilbert B Norman wrote: Hey folks, do city subway systems, be they they NY, Wash, or Toronto, have that stuff? then who needs it.

Well........ Mr Norman I do understand your position as to city subway systems as most trips are in Mins. not hours however that statement does not necessarily hold true, as you mentioned Toronto. Last year Toronto did install cellular transmitters for voice and data service in there subway stations ( I myself just 2 months ago used the one in A Underground TTC Downtown Station with uninterrupted coverage in the core, not sure if the rest of the system has been upgraded yet).
heres an article about it for you... http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/s ... rvice.html.
This Story went from could to did, however I believe at the moment it's only accessible to GSM phone service providers IE: Rogers/Fido/Mobilicity/Wind mobile or US equivalent ATT/Tmobile.

Also Mr Norman GO transit In the Toronto area (GTA) has been tinkering with the idea of WIFI on board there trains, unfortunately from my understanding the cash for this "bling-bling" WIFI tech stuff is not available at the moment. However you can sit back on a GO train and take in the local news and a few TV shows from flat panel TVs Mounted in almost all GO train cars, If you care to take a 5 min. "walk with me" you can see for yourself I filmed this Jan 2009. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eyo4s9PhnFw

"Cough"...to keep this Amtrak....VIA rail added WIFI yrs ( half a decade) ago as we know and even though Im a rail fan through and true, On many of my corridor trips I was on WIFI for 1/2 the trip, while the rest was rail-fanning. I wish I could do the same Detroit to Chicago. http://www.flickr.com/photos/8453967@N08/3972544468/

Mr. Norman may I say sir you must come visit across the border again. I myself will be there tomorrow spending the 4th in Chicago and by the 5th I'll be in Toronto.

Gilbert B Norman
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Re: This Wi-Fi Stuff

Post by Gilbert B Norman » Mon Jul 04, 2011 9:57 am

Gents, my reference to several municipal subway systems was based upon that Mr. Gunn has, to my best knowledge, any of those I noted within his "CV". It was during his Administration that the A-V equipment was removed from the Viewliner cars. I think movies are now gone from Amtrak Lounge cars (good riddance; I was hardly looking for them last Feb on Auto Train; after Dinner, a 'comp" Washpost and a "paid" Times awaited me in my Bedroom).

Allow me to reiterate, I don't think many in my age 70+ demographic feel a compulsion to be "connected" 24/7; I know i don't - when traveling, a check of e-mails every "couple of days" is good enough for me. However, what I was trying to determine when originating this topic, is the apparent "penchant" of those here, who apparently comprise a much younger tech savvy demographic, representative of Amtrak passengers as a whole? i wholly recognize that simply "I could care less", does not mean Amtrak has no obligation to "care".

Related, I can recall last September flying KRIC-KORD and the flight was slightly delayed (30-45min). In the boarding area, every power outlet had people sitting on the floor around such, and people asking those with power strips could they plug in for just a few minutes (don't those batteries last a while? I've never once had a low battery with my cell phone). So I guess I had best accept this is a "phenom" of 21st century life.

Zanperk
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Re: This Wi-Fi Stuff

Post by Zanperk » Mon Jul 04, 2011 11:44 am

The physics is the physics.

LD trains out of cell coverage are going to need satellite, i.e. high cost/low bandwidth. See Carnival's pricing schemes.

Some of the higher density corridors (NEC, CHI-MIL) should have enough cellular coverage, which would bring down the costs, but it's still going to be slow relative to a physical wire or fiber connection.

markhb
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Re: This Wi-Fi Stuff

Post by markhb » Mon Jul 04, 2011 12:01 pm

Gilbert B Norman wrote:Allow me to reiterate, I don't think many in my age 70+ demographic feel a compulsion to be "connected" 24/7; I know i don't - when traveling, a check of e-mails every "couple of days" is good enough for me. However, what I was trying to determine when originating this topic, is the apparent "penchant" of those here, who apparently comprise a much younger tech savvy demographic, representative of Amtrak passengers as a whole? i wholly recognize that simply "I could care less", does not mean Amtrak has no obligation to "care".
I think that, whether or not the younger demographic is currently representative of Amtrak passengers as a whole is of less significance than the fact that that is where future Amtrak passengers are going to come from. There's a reason that the only TV ratings advertisers care about anymore are MW 18-49; after that time, buying habits are largely settled and advertising is less effective. The same goes for services like Amtrak; if younger users are looking for some level of connectivity in their chosen environments, the later Amtrak reaches a solution the more potential riders will have already mentally discarded the system as unsuitable.

(Aside 1: Learning that the Auto Train had gone to strictly movies, and apparently even those are now gone, deeply disappointed me as someone whose only real idea of the route came from Bill Murray's Auto Train lounge act on SNL.)

Aside 2: As someone who has spent a great deal of time on a comparatively slow machine cursing Facebook's horrible Javascript, the remark in the linked Carnival page that "For a better experience, get familiar with Facebook light before your cruise" amuses me no end.)
"...And then I thought, every time some company creates a more powerful locomotive does Superman become more powerful as well or is he stuck at 1938 locomotive power levels?" - A friend of mine elsewhere
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Gilbert B Norman
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Re: This Wi-Fi Stuff

Post by Gilbert B Norman » Mon Jul 04, 2011 12:46 pm

markhb wrote:(Aside 1: Learning that the Auto Train had gone to strictly movies, and apparently even those are now gone, deeply disappointed me as someone whose only real idea of the route came from Bill Murray's Auto Train lounge act on SNL.)

Aside 2: As someone who has spent a great deal of time on a comparatively slow machine cursing Facebook's horrible Javascript, the remark in the linked Carnival page that "For a better experience, get familiar with Facebook light before your cruise" amuses me no end.)
A very insightful post, Mr. Mark HB; to address your two asides from my demographic's perspective, I have never once watched SNL; it simply comes well after my 830P bedtime.

Farcebook, i signed up this past March 11, asked to unsubscribe (not deactivate; get rid of it as if I were never there) April 4. I had to ask a neighbnor's teen aged kid how to do that as they are not about to tell you at their home page (let it be noted, I am at LinkedIn - and have about three contacts through participating at this site).

afiggatt
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Re: This Wi-Fi Stuff

Post by afiggatt » Mon Jul 04, 2011 3:33 pm

Gilbert B Norman wrote:Related, I can recall last September flying KRIC-KORD and the flight was slightly delayed (30-45min). In the boarding area, every power outlet had people sitting on the floor around such, and people asking those with power strips could they plug in for just a few minutes (don't those batteries last a while? I've never once had a low battery with my cell phone). So I guess I had best accept this is a "phenom" of 21st century life.
Smartphones will run down pretty quickly when it is being used to constantly text people, yak away in long conversations, play games, or surf the net. Depends on the laptop, but it might only be good for 2-3 hours on a charge. In the age of electronic gizmos of all kinds, got to keep them charged!

These people were waiting to to board the plane. Power outlets on the plane can be hard to come by. The plane may have DC power outlets which require an adapter, AC outlets but only for business and first class, only 1 outlet per row or no outlets at all. So there is going to be a rush to charge up the phone or laptop at the airport waiting area if there is time and there are wall outlets that people can use. Power outlets at each seat pair is one feature where Amtrak is now well ahead of the airlines.

With regards to the comments about why add Wifi to LD trains, because the poster would rather look out the window and watch the world go by. No, most people are on the train to get someplace, not just for the view. And they want to check/send email, the news, their facebook page, and so on. Yes, a lot of people will have laptops, phones, gadgets with 3G, but not all and those that do, would often prefer to use free WiFi if it is available. Yes, on the LD trains, there will dead zones and dropouts - as there will be for 3G/4G equipment, but people can adapt by getting their email and checking the net when they are passing through the more populated areas. The sooner Amtrak can roll out WiFi across the fleet, the better for their bottom line.
Last edited by afiggatt on Mon Jul 04, 2011 5:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

eagle628
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Re: This Wi-Fi Stuff

Post by eagle628 » Mon Jul 04, 2011 4:44 pm

The faster Amtrak can get Wi-Fi, on *all* routes, not just corridors, the better. Personally, I find the lack of Wi-Fi to be easily the biggest pain associated with traveling on Amtrak. The point of taking the train, at least for me, is to get somewhere. I use Amtrak because I find it superior to other options. I don't have the money nor the time to take multi-day land cruises where the point of being on the train is to stare out the window. Sure, the view is nice most of the time, but at some point (maybe it's because I'm younger than I feel like most people here are and have a relatively short attention span) it gets boring. I read books, watch movies, whatever, but I would *prefer* internet access. In some ways, long distance trains are where I feel like Wi-Fi would be most appreciated, because the majority of people are on board for a long time, and overnight/full day trips can drag on after a while; internet access would go quite some way in alleviating that feeling.
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Gilbert B Norman
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Re: This Wi-Fi Stuff

Post by Gilbert B Norman » Mon Jul 04, 2011 4:48 pm

Going to my Verizon bills I find airtime, Local and Roam, usage minutes:

Local Roam Total
Jan 0 0 0
Feb 14 0 14
Mar 0 156 156
Apr: 17 0 17
May 2 24 26
Jun 0 24 24

However, in all fairness, I should note that July will likely be a "100 minute month" as I was out of town for a week.

All told, even though I have had cellular phone service since 1985; I'm not "wed" to the thing. Any reason why i am simply astounded by this penchant, such as immediately noted by our younger member Mr. Eagle, to be connected 24/7?

gprimr1
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Re: This Wi-Fi Stuff

Post by gprimr1 » Mon Jul 04, 2011 5:05 pm

LD Wifi will be the harder to connect up.

GoGo works on airplanes because the airplane has an uninterrupted view of the surface, Amtrak has to deal with horizons, things blocking and deflecting signals, this may even go as far to make satellite difficult.

Now I think it can be done, but I think it will take a long time to get it done.
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afiggatt
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Re: This Wi-Fi Stuff

Post by afiggatt » Mon Jul 04, 2011 6:21 pm

gprimr1 wrote:LD Wifi will be the harder to connect up.

GoGo works on airplanes because the airplane has an uninterrupted view of the surface, Amtrak has to deal with horizons, things blocking and deflecting signals, this may even go as far to make satellite difficult.

Now I think it can be done, but I think it will take a long time to get it done.
One advantage that the central WiFi system has on the train is that the antenna is on the roof of the car. It will have a higher height and better line of sight to cell towers than a cell phone or 3G laptop antenna located inside the car at the seat. The path for cell phone signals inside the train is through the windows which restrict the range and signal detection coverage of cell phone towers. This is especially relevant to the Amfleet I and II cars with their smaller windows.

Yes, the LD trains will have dead zones with poor or no coverage. The shore line route in CT on the NEC is not all that great for coverage, although it may be more bandwidth limited than by available cell towers. But by making it free, Amtrak can advertise WiFi as an additional service. Then warn people as they log on that there will be dropouts in the more rural areas. I think most passengers will understand. After all, their own cell phone may go to zero signals in some areas. Over time, coverage will improve without Amtrak having to spend money on expensive (and decidedly bandwidth limited on the upload) satellite communications equipment.

For what it is worth (because this was written before the new Republican congress did it's damage to the FY11 capital budget), Amtrak states in it's FY12 business plan that they plan (or were planning) to complete installation of WiFi to the other corridor and long distance fleets.

Jersey Jeff
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Re: This Wi-Fi Stuff

Post by Jersey Jeff » Thu Jul 07, 2011 10:44 am

This topic is one of many that deals with WiFi on Amtrak trains. Mr. Norman, I don't know why you didn't choose to add on to one of several existing discussions on this subject that already exist here rather than start your own, but I'll play along. :-)

WiFi is as important to many people as cell phone service. Upload and download speeds of most smartphone are glacially slow compared to a WiFi network that is running smoothly. And speaking from someone who has ridden the California Zephyr between Chicago and Emeryville, WiFi would have helped pass the time between Chicago and Denver where we were treated to a painfully endless sea of cornfields.

What no one has raised here is what will happen to the speeds of a WiFi network on a train where dozens, if not hundreds, of passengers are all trying to get online at the same time. WiFi in hotels and coffee shops is already slow when a handful of users are accessing the network.

Gilbert B Norman
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Re: This Wi-Fi Stuff

Post by Gilbert B Norman » Thu Jul 07, 2011 11:32 am

Gilbert B Norman wrote:Going to my Verizon bills I find airtime, Local and Roam, usage minutes:

Local Roam Total
Jan 0 0 0
Feb 14 0 14
Mar 0 156 156
Apr: 17 0 17
May 2 24 26
Jun 0 24 24
Jul 20 63 83

All told, even though I have had cellular phone service since 1985; I'm not "wed" to the thing. Any reason why i am simply astounded by this penchant, such as immediately noted by our younger member Mr. Eagle, to be connected 24/7?
Jersey Jeff wrote:This topic is one of many that deals with WiFi on Amtrak trains. Mr. Norman, I don't know why you didn't choose to add on to one of several existing discussions on this subject that already exist here rather than start your own, but I'll play along.
First, I apologize to the Forum for not properly researching other open topics as I endeavor to do prior to originating material here. i will fully understand if a Moderator chooses to combine this material with another related topic.

I also updated my cell phone usage to show 83 minutes during my Verizon billing period ending during July. First let it be noted that I was out-of-town for a week during the cycle, and again allow me to note that just because wireless communication means little if anything to me does not mean that same is the case with the overwhelming majority of participants here, and likely a majority of the population at large.

Finally, we have the matter of how should the inevitable Amtrak wi-fi access be paid for; namely build it into the price of every ticket sold or charge for it separately. While of course my personal self-interest as one who has no intention of ever using such, I should say charge separately. I understand that the several airlines that now offer in-flight wi-fi charge for such, but then the airline pricing model has become one of charging for anything and everything. Will there soon be a credit card swiper on the door of the potty? Amtrak, wisely I like to think, has avoided this "nickel and dime" pricing model, and consistent with such, the cost of wi-fi as it becomes available throughout the System should simply be built into the cost of a ticket.

Greg Moore
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Re: This Wi-Fi Stuff

Post by Greg Moore » Thu Jul 07, 2011 3:32 pm

Gilbert B Norman wrote:Will there soon be a credit card swiper on the door of the potty? Amtrak, wisely I like to think, has avoided this "nickel and dime" pricing model, and consistent with such, the cost of wi-fi as it becomes available throughout the System should simply be built into the cost of a ticket.
You realize the CEO of Ryan Airlines has suggested exactly that?
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markhb
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Re: This Wi-Fi Stuff

Post by markhb » Thu Jul 07, 2011 10:55 pm

The CEO of RyanAir (or someone there) has also suggested that passengers ride standing up. Even PeoplExpress didn't suggest that (or pay toilets), and they cut every penny they could before Frank Lorenzo bought them out and created Continental.

More on-topic for this thread: regarding the availability of connectivity for a trainset, the comparisons to cruise ships and aircraft are neglecting one point: trains travel on dry land, on a continuous ROW. I am not suggesting that running their own WAN with periodic POP/routers would be cost-effective in the short term, but it is a solution that isn't available to sea or air travelers. It could even be an aspect of an FCC-led nationwide broadcast broadband project.

OTOH, has anyone experimented with IP via CWR? :D
"...And then I thought, every time some company creates a more powerful locomotive does Superman become more powerful as well or is he stuck at 1938 locomotive power levels?" - A friend of mine elsewhere
Anything I post here is mine alone and does not represent the views of my employer.

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