TRANSIT: Atlanta transit agency on cusp of major cellular investiture

$25 million system would bring Wi-Fi access to all station by 2018

September 08, 2015

Atlanta area transit agency MARTA is on the verge of approving a contract to install cell phone and Wi-Fi access in all of its stations and tunnels.

Once the contract is let, a six-month pilot project would start in January 2016 at the Five Points, Peachtree Center and Georgia Dome/Georgia World Congress Center stations, as well as within a tunnel that connects them. Ultimately, all 38 MARTA stations would feature cellular connectivity and Wi-Fi access by July 2018. The $25 million system would be designed, installed and maintained at no cost to MARTA.

MARTA would, in fact, be entitled to $1 million upon the contract’s signing. After the vendor signs up cellular carriers, it would provide MARTA with a 55% profit share for the first 10 years and 60% thereafter. The profit-sharing agreement could bring in as much as $10 million in revenue to MARTA in the first decade, and potentially double that amount in the decade to follow, according to official sources.

MARTA Chief Information Officer Ming Hsi presented details of the preferred vendor agreement to its board at a work session late last week. The board will vote on the contract sometime within the next month.

“Cool, cool, cool, cool, in every way,” MARTA CEO Keith Parker described the deal. “We were assuming it would cost us several million dollars a year. And instead, our IT was able to pull together with the finance and procurement group to structure a deal that has the provider paying us for the privilege.”