Night owls, club kids, and third-shift workers, rejoice: The MBTA is planning to test out late hours over weekends starting in early 2014. The Boston Globe reports that the T will run all subway lines and its 15 most popular bus routes (1, 15, 22, 23, 28, 32, 39, 57, 66, 71, 73, 77, 111, 116, 117) until 3 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, starting in either March or April, and will do so for a year. If the initial test run "is successful", the schedule changes may become permanent. (No official definition of "success" has yet been offered.)
Boston's Cinderella T system has long been in need of this schedule overhaul. Here are just a few reasons why:
- Our nightclubs and bars have last call at 2 a.m. – The T can now serve these patrons who previously had to rely on (much more expensive) cabs and ride-sharing services after leaving the bars
- We have a thriving and growing tech industry, and its employees typically work non-traditional (e.g., not 9-to-5) hours
- Our public transportation system requires an extended schedule to compete among other desirable East Coast cities and appeal to new college students, professionals, and international transplants considering relocating to Boston
- Any reduction of cars on our already-congested highways (regardless of time of day) is welcome
- It will greatly assist travelers flying in to Boston at odd hours on weekends, offering an additional form of transportation beyond cabs or a family/friend pickup
And, on first glance, the new extension sounds much better than the T's former Night Owl service, where it basically offered a few buses—on very limited routes—between 1 and 2:30 a.m. on weekends back in 2001. I tried Night Owl a few times and was so frustrated with its erratic service that I went back to using cabs. But this new pilot program sounds comprehensive, sensible, and wallet-friendly – all qualities a public transportation system should be.
Governor Deval Patrick told the Globe that the extended schedule will be financed through $20 million in state funds, as well as corporate sponsorships. (Look for plenty of new ads on the T, in signage, station naming, and via a variety of different media, on those late-night routes.) To start, fares will be no different from regular prices: $2 for subway rides, $1.50 for buses with a Charlie Card. However, these prices may be increased if the schedule extension becomes permanent.
Social media exploded on the news of the new late-night hours, with BDC Wire compiling the best posts (sample tweets: "NO MORE $40 TAXIS", "Okay, I'll move back to Boston now"). Marian White of BostInno compiled her personal "7 Reasons We Can't Wait for the MBTA to Launch Its Late-Night Runs". I like her reason #2: "With the late-night service, you can roam freely through the city of Boston and feel more at ease about venturing farther on a weekend night." It's true – without a steep price tag of a cab, you can explore the nightlife of other, perhaps less-familiar, neighborhoods without a second thought.What are your thoughts of the T's proposed late-night weekend hours? Send me an email and let me know what you think!