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Alternative transportation � and cell phone phobias

By: staff

Date: Saturday, 18. October 2008

There�s more than a touch of irony about it -- subway riders resisting access to mobile phone services on public transit because they want to preserve their peace and quiet.

However, the battle is long engaged between supporters of subway phone access (including the companies that would supply services and the transit authorities themselves) and those peace-loving transit users who don�t want to hear "chatty Kathy" while they doze on their way to work.

Sometimes there�s a touch of Kafka in the debate. Last year, during a hearing before two New York city council committees to discuss plans to plans to wire subway stations to enable mobile phone services, some objectors raised the specter of "hordes of jabbering commuters disrupting the rides of others."

One councilman said he�d ridden on commuter trains where phone service was available and found it objectionable. "They�re yelling and screaming," he protested. Another expressed the fear that subway users would become distracted by phones and wander off the platform into the path of trains. He wanted the service stopped at the broad yellow strips that warn people they're close to the platform edge.

At the same meeting, Gale A. Brewer, chair of the Technology in Government committee, warned the Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials that installation of WiFi on subway platforms could result in people flocking into the tunnels to use their laptop computers, making the platforms a kind of internet caf�.

While subway authorities across North America ponder the virtues of allowing phones in platforms, but perhaps not in the actual trains, or maybe restricting use to specific locations, airlines are moving ahead. This past April, European Union transport officials announced guidelines that would allow airlines to launch mobile phone services on their aircraft this year.

Some airlines, such as Air France and the Dutch KLM, had already launched trial in-flight phone services. The Dubai-based Emirates Airlines introduced its in-flight phone services last March on its Dubai to Casablanca route. Meanwhile, as all this was happening, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration was reiterating its ban on in-flight mobile phone services.

European airline and transport officials maintain that security risks will be minimized because the cell stations on aircraft will connect directly to satellites, not to ground systems. However, use of phones would be banned during takeoffs and landings. Use would be enabled when the craft reaches 10,000 feet when other electronic devices such as portable music players and laptops are allowed.

Cell phone ethics

"I live off of my phone. I like having it working everywhere, but I came to a dangerous conclusion recently," wrote one blogger in an online discussion about phone use on trains. "Other people are not considerate."

It would be far worse, the blogger reckons, having to tolerate a noisy phone user for the 20 minutes of the daily commute rather than to miss a call. "It is the same reason why I don't want cell phones to work on airplanes. I think the idea is great, but I don't trust other people to use the �privilege� properly. It is bad enough that I go onto Amtrak or the LIRR and have to sit next to chatty kathy."

A doctor had a different perspective. He couldn�t take the subway because he could not be inaccessible for 20 minutes to half an hour twice a day.

The mobile phone, it seems, is like every other new technology in how it�s adopted. We need to learn how to use it. We need to evolve ethics, and we need to overcome psychological resistance we sometimes can�t identify. However, a look back at history can help put things in perspective. Here�s a quote from a similar discussion about putting radios in cars back in the 1930s:

"A grave problem that developed in New Hampshire, spread to Massachusetts, and crept over to Albany, now has all the motor-vehicle commissioners of the eastern states in a wax. It's whether radios should be allowed on cars. Some states don't want to permit them at all-say they distract the driver and disturb the peace. The manufacturers claim that the sound of Rudy Vallee's voice is less disturbing than backseat conversation."

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Tina Seiler,

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is dumb why would some one txt when there o road is pretty danorus


Okay to be honest I don't really see the huge deal with the whole texting and driving thing. Everyone I text I am to young to drive but everyone I text who is driving at the time I text them they are careful and if they think that they are at a place where it's not safe to text they will just tell me that they will have to text me later. Big Deal!!

Mike G,

All kinds of distractions cause accidents. Law enforcement needs to calmp down on bad driving. They should NOT be occupied with trying to enforce an unenforcable law. Leve decisons about distractions in the hands of drivers, but ENFORCE driving rules.


Texting while driving is dangerous. That's obvious. What's not so obvious is that use of cell phones while driving should be banned. Distracted driving is already against the law!

john wynn,

DANGER! Texting while driving has caused several real accidents and death! Talking on the phone is not so serious

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