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TTC riders might find next stop is the world

Internet access, coffee stands eyed for system

Globe and Mail
Thursday, July 27, 2000

Toronto — Ride the rails and surf the Net while sipping an iced cappuccino. The Toronto Transit Commission hopes soon to serve up a cup of your favourite java and allow you to log onto the Internet while you wait for your bus or subway train.

“It’s time to move the system into the 21st century and out of the 18th century,” TTC board chairman Howard Moscoe said yesterday as he exhorted his fellow commissioners to approve his motion to have staff determine suitable sites for Internet stations on the public-transit system.

His motion passed, and staff were directed to put the proposal out to tender and to consider all technologies, including wireless equipment and fibre-optics.

Six companies, including Bell, the Internet Station and the Toronto-Dominion Bank, expressed interest when the TTC put out a request for information about the proposal in November.

While the board talked yesterday about the information highway, the TTC’s general manager, Vincent Rodo, revealed that passengers may soon be able to buy a takeout coffee at some stations.

“We’re looking at the possibility of selling coffee in our system,” he announced at yesterday’s board meeting.

Mr. Rodo told the board that finding locations for coffee and computers was not a simple issue. He was emphatic that they not go on subway platforms, which would interfere with the flow of passenger traffic.

Mr. Moscoe said that now was the time for the TTC to offer the Internet service to its passengers.

“I predict that within two to three years, Internet stations will be on platforms and everywhere, and may even be in subway cars,” he said.

But while he talked about providing another service, money was a motivating consideration.

Mr. Moscoe said the TTC stands to make about $1-million a year if it allows a company to set up Internet stations. The winning bidder will set the cost of logging on to check e-mails or to chat with someone, but the TTC will get a cut of the revenue from each transaction. The machines would likely be coin operated.

The TTC already allows telephones, bank machines and kiosks that sell newspapers, magazines and candy at some stations.

One dissenting voice on the commission was Gloria Lindsay Luby, who called the proposal a wild-goose chase. “I don’t see the TTC as an Internet caf�,” she said.