NEW YORK (AP) — Cellphone service and free Wi-Fi have arrived at another 30 New York City subway stations, officials announced Thursday.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced the expansion Thursday of a program that started with six stations in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood in 2011.
Phone and Internet service are now available at busy stations including Times Square, Columbus Circle and Rockefeller Center.
"It's a big deal for the millions of MTA customers who pass through these stations every single day," said Thomas Prendergast, the agency's interim executive director. "It means you can check your email, surf the Web, or do just about anything you do upstairs while you're waiting for a train."
Prendergast said rider safety will be enhanced at the wired stations, because "help is just a 911 call away."
The wireless equipment is being installed by Transit Wireless, a subsidiary of Broadcast Australia, with Boingo Wireless operating the Wi-Fi. Cellphone carriers AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon are participating.
"It's going to really change the way we commute on subways going forward," said Tom DeVito, AT&T's vice president for New York and New Jersey, who joined officials from the other companies and the MTA at a crowded news conference in the Times Square station.
All 277 of the system's underground stations should have phone service and Wi-Fi by 2017, officials said.
The cost of $200 million or more will be borne by Transit Wireless and the carriers. Wi-Fi users will see ads that will help pay for the service, said Boingo Vice President Zack Sterngold.
Straphangers said they welcomed the underground service.
"You get down here and you can't make phone calls," said Rick Piironen. "It's kind of a pain, right?"
Vlasios Vlassopoulos said cellphone service would be good for emergencies, but added, "I know a lot of cellphones get stolen and I hope that doesn't increase."
Prendergast said the MTA is working with the police transit bureau to ensure safety, adding, "Proper care should be taken as you do with your wallet and things like that."
While cellphones may be used in the stations, there are no plans for service on the moving trains.