New communication tools being installed on Sound Transit commuter trains come with an added bonus for riders: Better Wi-Fi.
By the end of the month, 58 Sounder commuter coaches on the north and south lines will have wireless routers that will vastly improve connectivity on the popular trains, Sound Transit said this week.
The routers are part of a $60,000 project to improve the regional transit agency’s ability to collect data “to better monitor the traffic and performance of the system,” said Kimberly Reason, a Sound Transit spokeswoman.
“In the future, this new system should allow for real-time passenger count data that can be used for real-time train car capacity reporting to the web,” Reason said.
“This will give us data communication capability from each train car. The agency will use this capability for other future technology projects, such as automatic passenger counting and enhanced passenger announcements.”
It also will improve Wi-Fi capability on the trains.
The agency began offering Wi-Fi on Sounder trains in 2009, but it was restricted to 18 cab cars.
Riders who wanted to access the system with their computers or mobile devices had to sit in a cab car to obtain a signal, which could be spotty, the agency said.
“Sound Transit began testing new Wi-Fi routers this spring after receiving rider requests to improve Sounder Wi-Fi connections,” the agency said in a news release. “Test showed improved functionality with upgraded equipment that included replacing interior antennas with external ones.”
Sound Transit added that Wi-Fi access still might be limited in some areas because of geography and the number of users trying to access the system at any time.
The agency operates 11 trains from Pierce County into Seattle each weekday and occasional trains on weekends for special events.
Earlier this year, Pierce Transit announced it was expanding Wi-Fi capability across its bus fleet.