MBTA late-night service off to good start

Late-night weekend service on the MBTA subway and 15 key bus routes began Friday night by operating 90 minutes longer. PHOTO BY EMILY ZABOSKI/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Late-night weekend service on the MBTA subway and 15 key bus routes began Friday night by operating 90 minutes longer. PHOTO BY EMILY ZABOSKI/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

After much anticipation, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is providing users with the long-awaited and requested late-night bus and train service, which runs until 2:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights and 1:00 a.m.Sundays through Thursdays.

These extended hours apply to the subway and the 15 most popular bus routes, including the 57, running up and down Commonwealth Avenue. The late night service began on Friday, and many Boston residents took advantage of the safe and easy way to get home.

“It’s something that we’ve been hearing from customers as well as business leaders and members of the community,” said Kelly Smith, an MBTA spokesperson, to The Daily Free Press earlier this month. “Boston is one of the most vibrant, young and innovative cities in the country and the world. One of the things that has been a complaint about the city is that we close early and are not that conducive to nightlife and the social aspect of it.”

The MBTA’s daytime operations will not change. This will be a one-year trial program, after which the MBTA will decide if ridership was high enough and if it is monetarily possible to continue. The goal is to better assist service industry workers in getting to and from their late-night shifts while also providing safe transportation for those enjoying the nighttime social scene.

“Our customers are always asking for more service, and I am happy that we are able to bring extended weekend hours to them beginning on March 28,” said MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott in a Friday release. “From students to entrepreneurs to service employees, late-night service will allow a wide cross-section of our vibrant population to better travel home from both work and play.”

The extended hours are estimated to cost approximately $16 million, but the MBTA has partnered with local businesses, including the Boston Globe, the Boston Red Sox, Dunkin’ Donuts, Suffolk Construction and the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, to help cover the costs.

Additionally, the Future Boston Alliance has begun a grassroots crowd-funding effort, with a goal of raising $20,000 to contribute to sponsoring the late-night service. The rest will need to be brought in through ridership.

“We’re presenting it not as a permanent change in service but as a pilot program,” Smith told The Daily Free Press in early March. “We’ll do it for one year and if it’s viable, we’ll continue it. Ridership is really the only benchmark. If people aren’t using it, we lose even more money. We hope it’s popular and that people use it but it really is ridership, which translates into revenue as well.”

Many residents said they are very pleased with this new option for transportation and took advantage of it on Friday.

“When people are out drinking and partying on the weekends, it’s definitely smart of the city to provide them a safe, and affordable, way to get home,” said Paige Costa, 33, of Dorchester. “Who knows, something like this could save lives by preventing drunk driving.”

Abdul Aziz, 29, of Fenway, said he appreciates the easier late-night transportation, but said it may not be worth the cost.

“This will definitely be helping a lot of people out,” he said. “But $16 million seems very extreme. As long as it’s not resulting in higher taxes for those who don’t utilize it, then I guess I’m okay with it.”

Jared Pruett, 36, of Boston, said he used the late-night service on Friday night and it was refreshing to not have the hassle of finding an alternate way home.

“I used it the first night it was available,” he said. “Usually you have to pay $20 or more for a taxi, so it was definitely nice … a lot of people will use it.”

 

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