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Metro advances cell-phone plan; some riders ask for courtesy

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Local,Taryn Luntz

Metro is moving forward with plans to make cell phone service available to all customers, but some Metro riders are asking the agency to make sure something else is available too: Signs asking people to keep quiet.

"We were just thinking that everyone is an individual and some people like to ride the Metro in quiet, and some are fine with chatting with their neighbor," Riders Advisory Council Chairwoman Nancy Iacomini said.

"As we bring more technology into the system, that gives people more opportunities to communicate, and I think we need to be mindful of everyone."

Metro is asking companies to submit proposals for building an underground wireless network in the transit system that would be compatible with all major cell phone companies.

Riders have long complained that only Verizon Wireless and some Sprint subscribers can get cell phone service in Metro’s tunnels.

Iacomini said advisory council members generally support the plan, but would like Metro to simultaneously start an ad campaign reminding riders to keep their calls brief and their voices low.

Several other transit agencies have implemented similar public awareness campaigns, including the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which recently made cell phone service from multiple carriers available to Boston’s T riders.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York uses station posters, fliers and announcements to discourage customers from blaring endlessly on their cell phones while using the Long Island Rail Road, according to the American Public Transportation Association.

MTA’s "Don’t be Cell-fish" campaign offers passengers cell phone courtesy tips, including using the vibrate option instead of the ringer and text messaging instead of calling.

Iacomini asked Metro’s board of directors to consider starting such a campaign when the agency’s wireless system begins.

Once Metro awards the contract to a company, wireless service could be available in the highest-use stations within 18 months, officials have said.

Service would be available throughout the system within four years.

tluntz@dcexaminer.com

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