BART Wireless Technology Program
A project to bring next-generation reliable wireless connectivity and innovation to BART riders is now underway.
BART’s Wireless Technology Program will improve cell phone connectivity across the system and provide seamless Wi-Fi coverage in all stations and onboard Fleet of the Future trains. Transit riders will benefit from improved cell service and neighbors who live near BART tracks may also benefit from 5G cellular coverage.
Once complete, riders will be able to leverage the full power of today’s mobile devices while using BART through the delivery of advanced cellular, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. Riders will experience fewer dropped calls, reliable connectivity for on-demand video and audio streaming, and improved app functionality even in underground stations and crowded conditions.
For BART, deploying this combination of technology introduces the possibility to share real time proximity-based communication with riders through smartphones, tablets, smartwatches and other mobile devices.
BART’s Wireless Technology Program includes four projects.
Project 1: SFMTA Underground Cellular Coverage
5G cellular service will be added to all SFMTA (Muni) tunnels, including the new Central Subway, serving 11 miles and 11 underground stations. BART is leading the project following a unique agreement between BART and SFMTA, approved by their respective boards, and the City and County of San Francisco Board of Supervisors to work together to offer better services while generating revenue. Although some areas will be ready sooner, this project is scheduled to complete work in all three tunnels by mid-2022.
Project 2: BART Station Wireless Services
The latest wireless technology, including both Wi-Fi (Wi-Fi 6 or 802.11ax), and Bluetooth, will be installed in all BART stations, covering both the paid and free areas. Riders will experience less buffering, better streaming, faster load times and the possibility for proximity-based, personalized notifications sent to their mobile device.
This project is scheduled to be completed at all stations by fall-2024.
Project 3: Wireless Services on BART Fleet of the Future Trains via Trackside Poles to be Installed
Wi-Fi will be extended to all Fleet of the Future train cars even while traveling the system by 2025. Beyond offering riders Wi-Fi to help pass their time and multi-task while riding, Wi-Fi onboard cars allows BART to provide real time information and emergency alerts through the digital monitors and provides BART police with improved access to security cameras.
Wireless transmitters will broadcast a secure signal into the new train cars. Approximately 150 short, low-profile poles will be installed along the track where needed to fill coverage gaps. The poles will also provide improved cellular service to those living in the surrounding area, extending up to a half a mile from the track. BART can also incorporate lighting to the poles in the areas where improved lighting will benefit communities.
This work will begin in fall 2021 and is expected to be finished systemwide by fall 2025. Installation of the four-pole pilot between Balboa Park and Daly City stations begins November 2021.
Extensive community outreach will be held prior to installation in all areas.
Project 4: Revenue Generating Commercial Fiber Optic Cable
A new super-highway of fiber optic cable will be installed along certain BART and SFMTA Rights-of-Way to expand BART’s current fiber optic licensing business, to generate additional revenue for both BART and SFMTA. These will include fiber options to improve communication networks and broadband internet services and support for carrier hotels and data center connectivity.
Revenue Sharing and Generating
In 2020, the BART Board of Directors approved agreements with the nation’s largest private wireless infrastructure firm, Mobilitie Services LLC, to build and operate new revenue generating wired and wireless communications technology infrastructure at BART. Mobilitie has extensive experience successfully building out similar large projects in transit, public spaces, and large venues across the country.
This project is designed as a revenue sharing agreement between BART, SFMTA and Mobilitie. Over the initial 20-year term, the program will generate a series of minimum guaranteed payments and revenue share amounts, as well as substantial infrastructure investments by Mobilitie. Due to the nature of this agreement, there are no direct costs to BART’s budget. BART expects to generate more than $243 million over 20 years by leveraging these systems to generate revenue from telecommunication businesses through licensing and access.