Today's Boston Globe revealed that the fate of late night MBTA service is uncertain, despite its popularity amongst riders. Launched as a one-year pilot program in March 2014, the late night service extended the hours of operation for all MBTA subway lines and 15 key bus routes to approximately 2:30AM on Friday and Saturday nights. As this pilot period comes to an end, it appears that a combination of state funding shortfalls and lack of business and political support- not ridership- are steering the future of the service into question.
A public survey initiated by MassCommute in the fall of 2014 found overwhelming support and enthusiasm for the late night service. From a pool of about 500 respondents, the Red and Green Lines were the most popular services, and many respondents reported using the service not just to get home from a night on the town but for commuting from night jobs, particularly in the service and medical sectors, and late flights from Logan Airport. Some of our favorite responses from the survey:
"This service is absolutely essential to keep me living in Boston/Cambridge and for this city to truly call itself a world-class global city like Chicago, NY, and many others."-Student
"I often have critical experiments that extend into the late night, or need late-night check-ins. I also am living cross-country from my husband and children and have flights that arrive to the airport late at night, leaving me having to take an expensive taxi ride. I have been waiting for Boston to extend their service to late night. Please keep this important service available!"-Research Scientist
"It made traveling from school and work much safer because I would get out of work past midnight. I didn't have to spent 45 minutes walking to Brighton from Fenway. Again it made weekends much easier on me, I could enjoy exploring the city late without having to worry about transportation options or walking back home."- Research Assistant/ Cafeteria Worker
Now with over 860,000 weekend rides logged, transportation officials are hinting that they may push the late night program to the chopping block in order to help cover a $765 million deficit in the state’s budget. Private sector support to help cover the costs of the $13 million pilot has been insufficient, even though it is large corporations that ultimately benefit from the service by attracting and retaining young talent and meeting the transportation needs of employees.
As an organization committed to supporting and providing transportation options for commuters and increasing accessibility to transit, MassCommute is highly concerned about the potential loss of late night T service. We hope to help shape the conversation over the coming months with transportation officials and the new Baker Administration to preserve what is a powerful asset to Boston's economic base and quality of life for both commuters and residents Boston.