Article written by Adam

18 responses to “Last Call on the MBTA”

  1. m ramos

    I think that the train schedule is completely ridiculous because it pretty much encourages DUIs if people can’t get home when the bars close. What are they thinking?

  2. Aaron

    Do you think that late night train service would be more popular than the Night Owl service because of the stigma against buses? My totally uninformed opinion makes me think bus service could be run on a much cheaper basis, but if no one rides it, what’s the point?

    I wonder if late night service would be more popular now that public transit has seen something of a resurgence.

  3. Adam Pieniazek

    Good point m ramos. Though they’re not quite encouraging DUIs (it is illegal after all), they are making it more difficult for people to admit they’ve had too much and shouldn’t drive, since they don’t have a low cost alternative to driving themselves. During the summer you can easily see tons of people walking around the city (especially down near Faneuil Hall) trying to hail a cab at 3AM without success because there’s tons of other people doing the same. It’s actually a bit dangerous riding your bike around there late at night, there’s been a few drunken fools who tried to steal my bicycle since they had no way of getting home!

    I do think that trains are preferred to buses, Aaron. Buses are slower than trains, and can only hold so many people (making for cramped quarters). Trains are faster and usually more reliable (since there’s little chance of a traffic jam – though they do happen). I think public transportation itself is losing a bit of its stigma and might make the number of people who would use late night T service higher than the night owl.

  4. Randolph

    I agree with the principle, but it would have to be done with buses. Shutting down the system for maintenance takes time. It’s not as simple as flipping a switch and hopping onto the tracks for 2 hours of work between midnight and 2. According to an electrician friend of mine, work begins and ends an hour after/before service. This currently allows for only 4 hours of work a night.

    I wonder whether those 4 hours are really needed on Friday and Saturday nights though.

  5. Greg

    I thought the MBTA does maintenance work on the tracks all night long. If the MBTA ran late night, I’m not sure when and if this work could get done. In New York, if one track is having maintenance done, they can usually divert the trains to another alternative track that goes to the same location, but we don’t have that luxury on most lines. Correct me if I’m wrong.

  6. Adam Pieniazek

    You’re probably right Randolph about late night service needing to use buses. I’m OK with that. If the maintenance schedule absolutely prevents them from running one more set of trains, then buses will suffice.

    Though, I too wonder if they really need to perform maintenance every night. If so, then so be it.

    You’re right Greg that the T does maintenance work at night. Hence why I suggested that they shut down the trains a little earlier to give them the same amount of time to do maintenance, but as Randolph pointed out they start work an hour after the trains stop running and stop work an hour before so a tiered maintenance schedule probably wouldn’t work out…buses are a viable alternative however (and probably cheaper).

  7. Marc

    The issues that have been mentioned about maintenance make train service incredibly difficult, if not impossible. But the idea of providing service late night obviously has a lot of merit.

    The thing to keep in mind is that the trains are largely set up to get people in and out of the core of the city (aka the Financial District), so they can get to and from their day jobs.

    But at 2:00AM, you’re trying to do something completely different. Just because the train routes are familiar and useful during the day, doesn’t mean we should be replicating them at night.

    What the T should do is figure out where people are gathered at 2:00AM (e.g.: Harvard Ave, Boylston St, Fanuel Hall, etc.) and map several bus routes that will get the *majority* of them where they need to be…

    For example, if you had a bus from each of the locations above that went down Commonwealth Ave, one that went down Mass. Ave. to Cambridge, and a third that hit Southie via Broadway, how many people have you put close enough to their house that it’s not worth a cab or a DUI?

    You’re never going to be able to serve everyone, but if you can take half of the people who would be taking cabs and a quarter of the people who would be driving, and put them on a buses, you’re doing damn good.

  8. IFC

    I fully support late-night MBTA service, and not just for bars. I personally don’t drink, but I frequent music clubs. Usually, if I got out for a show, I either have to walk home or leave early. Neither of those situations is particularly ideal.

    The bus solution would be fine…except I often have to take 2 buses to get home from anywhere but Cambridge—I live in Somerville. So if I was to take the bus home from Downtown Crossing, Allston, Brookline, etc. it requires two buses. I guess I’m saying the bus would only work if the last bus was later than 2am.

  9. Kmacjp

    AMEN! Especially if the buses picked people up at bars/theater district. I suggest that the T sell Night Owl passes in advance at regular T kiosks, though, and accept no cash on board. I remember when the original Night Owl service (RIP) was running, tons of drunk kids would try board with no $, or not enough $. Of course the drivers would still take the kids home, which is the responsible thing to do, but I’ll bet that was a big part of why NO was not profitable. If there were a NO pass that you could buy in advance, and you KNEW you needed to have in order to get on board, there might be hope. I’d pay A LOT for one of those passes, man.

  10. Adam Pieniazek

    You’ve got a good point Marc. Providing routes that cover 50% of the public’s needs would also be a good way to test the system and see if we could extend it out to try to cover more ground later. Though, I’d another route goes up Mass Ave to Edward Everett Square, then down Dot Ave to serve Dorchester too (largest neighborhood in Boston plus likely that a lot of patrons of the late night service would reside in Dot). Still, your greater point that having the option of taking the T to at least get closer to your end destination would likely deter some DUIs is likely true.

    IFC, if we go the bus route I see no reason we can’t have buses run all night. The maintenance issue becomes null for buses since they don’t run on tracks that need daily repairs. Obviously, cost and usage would likely be huge issues at those hours.

    Hmmm, I like the idea of NO passes Kmacjp. Though, I think buses would and should still accept cash. What about clueless tourists stuck somewhere at 3AM with loads of cash but no idea what an NO pass is? Guess they could take a cab but maybe we could charge $6 for people without an NO pass. Still, the fare skippers become an issue. Assuming that a lot of people using the NO service would be college students, perhaps we could force some of the colleges to subsidize part of the NO cost?

  11. IFC

    I’m not sure about the N.O. pass either. As a frequent user of public transportation, it is a bit crazy to me that people haven’t figured out the free Charlie Card thing yet. Out-of-towners excused, of course. I don’t see too many people paying with cash though.

    As much as I hate to bring it up, I think the issue of service is somewhat unavoidable. Especially in this case, when we’re talking about buses being the only option. The Boston area bus service sucks. Flat out. It is far from dependable. A couple weeks ago, I was waiting for the 66 at 12:30PM on a Saturday to Harvard from Allston. I waited. And waited. It was close to 2 before it finally came. What could possibly make the bus so late at that time of night, and why couldn’t they send another bus? And let me tell you, it wasn’t warm that night… I don’t know. Maybe the buses would be OK, but I have a feeling it still wouldn’t be something you could really rely on.

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  13. Seth Simonds

    I think there might be some middle ground to be found in the issue. Shutting down and opening back up doesn’t make much sense from a logistics standpoint. If it was made readily apparent that a supply of paying riders is ready to board public transit at 2am and nightlife is something the city wants to encourage, then perhaps it’d be better to run trains later or bring back the buses.

    I think you’ll get the buses long before you get the trains.

    Don’t drink and drive! =)

  14. Adam Pieniazek

    First up Seth, highly support your statement to not drink and drive! Your right that a late night T service will likely rely on buses rather than trains. Though, I also think Randolph left a good comment above that perhaps late night train service could be used only on Friday and Saturday, leaving the rest of the week’s schedule as is for maintenance.

    Perhaps having a Night Owl pass would help push late night T service as viable and maybe even profitable. If such a pass cost $10-$20, I could see a large group of people buying them, especially if it was the only way to get on the late night T (or if it represented a significant cost savings).

    Though, IFC makes a great point above you Seth that the T’s bus service is severely lacking. It’s the main reason I chose to use trains in my example as I feel many more Bostonians would ride a late night service if it was train based, while busses might be viewed as unreliable.

    In either case, if we want to discourage DUIs and encourage nightlife we need some sort of late night option.

  15. Sean

    Want to extend the MBTA’s hours? Speak out by joining this facebook group:

  16. dude

    Great idea, but first we have to squash the cabbie lobby. I wish I had numbers on how much of their income came from the post-2AM bar crowd

    1. Adam Pieniazek

      Hmmm, good guestion dude. I’d imagine a large chunk of their income also comes from the airport but am curious how much comes from the bar crowd. There’s always taxis flying around late night on the weekend here since there’s no other option.

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