Editorial, Opinion

Edit: A T past midnight

This is part of Governor Deval Patrick’s recently proposed transportation reform plan, which would allocate nearly $1 billion to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to allow for these extended service hours. His proposal also calls for $2.4 billion over the next 10 years to replace old train cars, as well as $850 million to replace buses, among other things. The plan is in response to the “Your Vision, Our Future” public meetings that have been occurring throughout the city. It would greatly improve the city of Boston.

The problem with the proposal is the money: increased operation hours for the T would require substantial additional funding. The MBTA already requires about $300 million a year to pay for existing debt and operating costs. Most likely, these improvements will come at the expense of taxpayer dollars.

Why so expensive? Additional service hours require funds for vehicle fuel, power, personnel, cleaning, station and parking area lighting, as well as increased customer service and Transit Police hours to ensure passenger safety, according to Kelly Smith, the Deputy Press secretary of the MBTA

But the plan is well worth it. The upgrade to longer operating hours is long overdue. Boston is a world-class city, home to a thriving bar scene and a large demographic of nocturnal students. A late-night mass transportation service is needed in order to keep pace with the growing allure of city nightlife for tourists and locals alike. (Buses currently run until about 2 a.m., but bus routes don’t cover all regions.) Even if hours were extended solely on weekends, T ridership would undoubtedly increase.

Late-night subways services are good for a number of reasons. For one, they create jobs. Secondly, they increase customer traffic at Boston bars, lounges and clubs. This enhances Boston’s status as both a tourist destination as well as a thriving urban metropolis, allowing it to compete with cities like New York and London for attracting young people who stay out late (and spend their money late). Our next question in this development is, why not a 24-hour mass transport system?

Finally, a late-night T would increase resident safety. College students who find themselves vulnerable and alone in dark regions of party-ridden areas of the city like Allston are more vulnerable to be victims of crime. As Boston University students continue to fear armed robbery in the after hours, the opportunity to take the T home in the company of other late-night commuters might help prevent muggings, assaults and other late night mishaps.

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