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Summary:

Thanks to a housing crisis and the ensuing economic meltdown, many U.S. cities decided to back off their original Municipal Wi-Fi plans. San Francisco, however, was seen as the epicenter of the municipal revolution. Unfortunately that never happened and all we have is a handful of […]

Thanks to a housing crisis and the ensuing economic meltdown, many U.S. cities decided to back off their original Municipal Wi-Fi plans. San Francisco, however, was seen as the epicenter of the municipal revolution. Unfortunately that never happened and all we have is a handful of free network rollouts, including the Free The Net SF run by San Francisco-based hardware maker, Meraki.

Now comes word that by 2013, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency will install 360 new bus stops powered by solar panels that will, in turn, power Wi-Fi routers and digital information panels, with any unused energy being pumped into the city’s grid. Popular Mechanics reports:

  • San Francisco’s high-tech bus stops will channel an estimated 43,000 kilowatt-hours per year into the city’s grid. Built-in Wi-Fi routers will help the city create a comprehensive wireless Internet network.
  • Each bus stop costs about $30,000. City officials say Clear Channel Outdoor has an installation and maintenance contract with the SFMTA. The company foots the bill and gets saleable ad space.
  • The new shelters’ LED lights use 74.4 watts—four and a half times more efficient than the 336 watts used by the old shelters’ fluorescent lighting.

I checked with my colleagues over at Earth2Tech and they tell me the whole thing looks quite plausible and that the 43,000 kilowatt-hours being pushed back into the city grid isn’t too over the top. I wonder how much the fog and cloud cover will impact the actual performance of this system. (Hat tip, Kimo)

Photo courtesy of Popular Mechanics. Click on the image to be taken to the Popular Mechanics web site.

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  1. Are you serious?! Wi-Fi at bus stops is a horrible idea. I got mugged while holding my iPhone at a bus stop (Van Ness & Sutter – not a bad area). Now people are going to use their laptops? Good luck with that.

    1. One is hoping that by 2013 it would be cool to walk around without getting mugged for your iPhone.

      Not sure if they are going to use their laptops – it is mostly these tiny devices. I wonder who is going to pay for the network: the city?

      1. By 2013 no one will mug you for your iPhone because it will be useless… The rate technology is developing today, it would not surprise me at all if by 2013 all major cities in the world will be completely wireless and we will have devices that no one has even thought of yet… And I know it’s in 4 years.

  2. The housing crisis and the economic meltdown had nothing to do with scuttling most muni-fi networks. The systems failed because of poor economics and an unclear mission. See this dissertation: http://etd.library.pitt.edu/ETD/available/etd-07242008-151444/.

  3. While I like the concept of using solar to pump energy back into the grid and powering digital info panels, MUNI riders can’t even break a $5 bill at MUNI Metro stations (e.g. Powell) to purchase a ticket. How about they modernize their ticketing machines so they can do things that Tokyo’s mass transit system was doing over a decade ago? Maybe they can get other corporate partners to subsidize those upgrades as well.

  4. ha ha ha! anyone lived in the not-so-sunny parts of this foggy city?

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