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AKICIF: Subways
Which US cities have underground railways?

Background -- so, yesterday I was hacked off at one of the many ways that the iPhone is rubbish if you're outside mobile phone reception, and concluded that nobody with any influence at Apple had any experience of commuting by underground.

Edit: mr_tom has pointed out that some of the US urban railways are so close to the surface that mobile reception is maintained. So, I think I mean 'which US cities have underground railways that break mobile phone reception'.

And yes, I think I already knew that Cupertino was a driving sort of place.

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So from the Apple POV:

The San Francisco Muni Metro (local service in San Francisco) is a mix of underground and above-ground lines.

VTA Light Rail (local service for Santa Clara County) is above-ground.

BART (regional service not including Santa Clara County) is a mix of underground and above-ground lines.

Caltrain (regional service SF-Gilroy, which is south Santa Clara County) is above ground, but does have to pass through a few tunnels cut through hills at the SF end of things.

Apple isn't in SF, though. It's in Cupertino. There's no rail service (BART, Caltrain or VTA Light Rail) in Cupertino in the first place. Apple execs and designers are going to drive or can afford to live in the Cupertino hills and surrounding area and bicycle if they want to feel green.

Atlanta, Baltimore, Washington, New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco. Cupertino, where Apple are based, doesn't have any commuter railways at all, let alone underground ones.

Edited at 2011-02-01 07:54 am (UTC)

Alphabetically: Atlanta's MARTA is partly underground; Baltimore's Metro is underground in the city only; Boston's MBTA; Chicago's 'L' has about 10km underground; Los Angeles Metro's red and purple lines are underground; New York's Subway; Philadelphia's SEPTA; San Francisco's BART and Washington's Metro.

I could be wrong, but I think Cleveland's RTA and Miami's Metrorail are entirely above ground.

Also, the NYC Subway is only just underground, so mobiles work fine for the most psrt. I'm not sure about the others, but I'd guess they'd be similar. London's underground is unusually deep.

Ahah! This is key. Of course, mobiles work quite well on much of the Circle line; it's the deep tubes that are the problem, such as the Victoria line.

I wouldn't say "for the most part": they work near one or both ends of some lines (which get the least traffic), most of a few lines (7, J), and not at all on some. And even our shallow, cut-and-cover lines don't have reliable service: on the 6 train (Lexington Avenue local) there are areas in some stations, usually near entrances, that have service, but a few meters away will be dead, and the reception is spotty at best on the trains.

Edited at 2011-02-01 12:30 pm (UTC)

I think there are some underground bits on the Portland metro (can't remember what it's called), and Seatle has an underground busway - they still haven't found the money to upgrade it to a metro.

Seattle's bus tunnel now carries light rail as well. Depending on your criteria for "metro" that might count. (It's not built as a "pre-metro" that can be upgraded to heavier rail as Brussels has done.)

Wonder if I dare mention the Springfield Monorail. Guess I'd better not - that sounds more like a Shelbyville kind of idea...

We have mobile reception all the way through the Brussels metro, no matter how deep; I had formed the impression that it's not just a matter of depth, but that London had deliberately not made the technical adaptations which would make mobile phone use possible.

"Deliberately" may mean "didn't have the spare hundreds of millions of pounds, nor a willing private partner that would pay for the refit," rather than "listened to the pleas of users who didn't want to spend their commuting time listening to one side of tedious conversations."

The Washington Metro has long had underground cell phone service from one provider only (Verizon Wireless) because that company negotiated a contract to install (at no cost to Metro) the hardware needed to enable reception in the tunnels and on the underground platforms. Several other providers (AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile) have recentrly been allowed to install hardware to provide service to the underground platforms of selected major stations. I think that eventually those services will be also be nade available in the tunnels.

Frankly I'm rather glad that not everyone around me on the subway is chattering away.

Portions of Boston's MBTA have coverage in tunnel, though the part I use most (Red Line north of the river) is not one of them (yet).

I think Apple people are very familiar with San Francisco. BART runs in a deep tunnel. On Market Street the stations are under the street. Muni Metro is under the stations. BART runs under the Muni Metro. It's about six stories down. BART's transbay tube is pretty far down too, under water. The Muni Metro K, L, and M lines continue from Market Street through the Twin Peaks Tunnel to El Portal. Twin Peaks is the big mountain in the middle of the city. If I recall correctly, it's about ten stories from the station in the middle, down to the tracks.

The North and South Halls of the Moscone Convention Center, where MacWorld occurs, are underground. The North Hall has a park on top of it. Cell phone reception has been an issue in the halls until the phone co's put a lot of cells in.

Getting radio into a deep hole in the ground is a hard problem. You need lots of cells. Or you can put wifi or microcells in the cars, but then you need to get the broadband data to and from the cars. Also, subways during commute time are packed with users, and cell performance degrades a lot with more users, even on the surface.

Apple could improve reception by building in a whip antenna, instead of the built-in active antenna. But that probably would not go over well with the style-conscious crowd. And it would not help that much in places where cells are lacking, or where the number of phones is overwhelming the cell capacity.

We have phone reception on our line (heathrow express/connect) all 3 miles of it, 23 metres underground, although Tmobile is a bit crap at termibal 4.

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