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Can Boston Become a Late-Night City?

Three New Programs Put Late Night to the Test



Boston at night

Photo courtesy Rob Colonna via Flickr Creative Commons

Night owls, rejoice: After months of planning, late night in Boston is here. In just a few weeks, we'll see if our collective wish list for more cosmopolitan nightlife, extended public transit service, and additional late-night services are what Bostonians actually want.

Here are the experimental programs launching this March (and note the "experiment" – all are subject to change, pending measures of success).

Weekend T Hours Extended

Starting March 28, the T and the 15 busiest bus lines will stay open until 3 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays evenings for a year-long pilot program. Fares will stay the same (for now) -- $2 for subway rides, or $1.50 for bus rides with a Charlie Card.

Late-Night Food Truck Hours to be Tested

Starting April 1, if you want a late-night bite, you'll be in luck (and have plenty of options) – especially if you live on or near college campuses on the Green Line. The Boston Globe reports that food trucks near Boston University, Copley Square, and Northeastern University can extend their operating hours until midnight on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

The 10 food trucks participating in the pilot late-night program include The Bacon Truck, BBQ Lamb Brothers, and Meng's Kitchen, among other local favorites. Depending on public response and demand, more food trucks and neighborhoods may be added.

Late-Night Task Force Created

Mayor Marty Walsh has created a Boston late-night task force to determine ways to improve the city's nightlife. The Boston Herald reports that the task force (made up of local bar and restaurant owners) will analyze whether local bars and restaurants should extend last call to 2:30 a.m., and general operating hours to 3:30 a.m. This staggered shutdown time would be designed so the T and roadways don't get overwhelmed with departing patrons all at once – the idea is that those who want to drink would leave around 2:30, whereas those who still want to dance (or just hang out) would leave later.

It's anticipated that any pilot programs will first be tested in the Seaport District, which is less residential than other Boston neighborhoods known for bars, nightclubs, and restaurants.

As Noah Guiney at BDC Wire so accurately put it, if you want late-night services to stick around in Boston, "you have to use them".  A lot of data will be collected to determine whether these new programs are successful, with areas of study including increased business (at all establishments), maintenance of public safety, and satisfied public sentiment/improved quality of life.

Late night infrastructure in Boston—and just better nightlife options overall—are long overdue. With our current policies and practices, we're not serving the needs of our students, the many employees who work less-traditional schedules, and the expectations of tourists visiting the city. So I, for one, am hoping that these new test programs prove to be successful for the long term.

In order for them to become permanent, though, we all need to play an active role. Patronize the establishments that stay open late – try new food trucks for a late-night snack, ride the T during late-night hours, and stop in at other businesses experimenting with late-night scheduling. Be responsible and courteous (especially if out late in residential areas), and be cognizant of public safety. Lastly, get involved by reaching out to Mayor Walsh's office to let him and his staff know what's working (and what can be improved).

What do you think of Boston's late-night test programs? Send me an email and share your thoughts!


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