PATCO to get underground cellphone transmitters

PATCO riders will soon be able to use their cellphones in the commuter line's underground stations and in tunnels, following a move Wednesday to approve the installation of cellular transmission equipment.

Only users of Verizon mobile service will be able to access the free service, at least initially, said John Rink, general manager of PATCO. He said negotiations may eventually allow other cellphone users to use the network.

The service is expected to be available by October or November, Rink said.

A committee of the Delaware River Port Authority board on Wednesday sent to the full board a plan to contract with Verizon Wireless to install the cellphone equipment at PATCO's 13 stations.

Rink said the first installations will be in PATCO's four Philadelphia stations.

If the full board approves the contract at its monthly meeting next Wednesday, Verizon will pay PATCO $299,610 for five years, with four one-year options to extend the contract.

PATCO riders have long complained about the inability to use their mobile phones underground, especially during train breakdowns or other incidents.

The move comes five years after SEPTA initiated cellphone service, by AT&T, in its Broad Street subway.