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More Transit Agencies Adding WiFi on Buses

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Photo: Streets.mn

Escambia County, Florida announced WiFi on its buses last week. So did Charleston, South Carolina. Kansas City had it months before. And Atlanta's working on it too.

It's a trend that's gaining speed quickly among transit agencies intent on luring young people to their service, according to Chad Chitwood, a spokesperson for the American Public Transit Association.

For several years, the shares of American buses outfitted with WiFi has been growing rapidly, increasing from 0.5 percent in 2008 to 5.1 percent in 2014, he says. On commuter rail fleets, the rate of adoption is faster, increasing from 0.5 percent to 10.7 percent over the same period, APTA reports.

In announcing WiFi on its buses, Kansas City Metro said it is trying to entice more young, tech-savvy riders. (The buses in that pilot serve the University of Missouri-Kansas City and Rockhurst University campuses.)

In Atlanta, MARTA echoed that sentiment, telling Creative Loafing that WiFi-equipped vehicles are part of an effort to make transit "cool."

What's interesting is that this push seems to be mainly be coming from smaller transit agencies. Chitwood said the first agency to incorporate WiFi on public buses was either Sun Metro in El Paso or CARTA in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He said these agencies hope it will help give them a small competitive advantage over driving.

"Public transportation takes you out from behind the wheel and gives you a chance to multi-task and make better use of their time," said Chitwood. "WiFi allows people to check their email or work documents while they’re commuting to work or just play on their phone."

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