NJ Transit trains and rail stations may soon be Internet hot spots where passengers can access e-mail, browse the Web, and stream video and audio.

The transit agency said Wednesday it was seeking a company to provide wireless broadband, or WiFi, Internet service for its 12 rail lines and 165 train stations.

Internet access is available on Amtrak's Acela trains and on many international trains, but it remains a rarity on U.S. transit systems.

In issuing its request for proposals from WiFi providers, NJ Transit said it hoped to award a contract by the end of the year and have the system available to riders by next year.

The cost of the service to riders, if any, will be determined by the terms of the winning proposal, NJ Transit spokeswoman Penny Bassett-Hackett said Wednesday. The transit agency said it expected the service would be provided "at no cost to the agency."

"The provision of wireless Internet service would be a welcome amenity for our customers, enabling those who wish to remain connected and productive during their commute to do so continuously," NJ Transit executive director James Weinstein said.

The agency said it would hold a meeting for interested firms at its Newark headquarters on Sept. 9.