By Jon Hilkevitch
Chicago Tribune transportation reporter
March 6, 2003
Chicago's subway system, an 11.4-mile-long Cellular-Free Zone, may
soon become a rolling gabfest.
The CTA board approved an $11.2 million contract Wednesday for a
Libertyville company to install a wireless communication system in
the subway tunnels on the Red and Blue Lines.
CTA President Frank Kruesi, who uses his cell phone daily while
riding on elevated trains, acknowledged the deal was "a mixed
blessing, but overall a positive amenity."
The subway tunnels, built in the 1940s, were one of the last refuges
from a blab-happy society that feeds on unlimited free minutes of
Ultimately, though, the cell-phone users might not prevail. After
all, who can possibly talk above the thump, roar, rumble and squeal
of CTA subway trains?
CTA officials want cell-phone technology to work in the tunnels to
make riders feel safer, especially at night. They also say it will
provide a back-up to their own radio communication systems in an
And opening up the entire rapid-transit system to not only cell
phones, but also e-mail, wireless Internet, paging and text messaging
could be an important revenue source for the CTA. So far, however, no
cell-phone carriers have shown interest in leasing the equipment.