Transportation for Massachusetts Urges the MBTA to Extend Late Night Service Pilot

March 10, 2015

The MBTA late night program is an important transportation option for the Boston region and deserves careful consideration.   At a time that the MBTA is being comprehensively reviewed, we recommend extending the pilot test for 6-12 months to obtain additional information and explore opportunities for sponsorship. 

Transportation for Massachusetts, a statewide coalition of 47 organizations advocating for a better transportation system in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, respectfully submits these comments to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority regarding the Late Night Service Pilot.

As the pilot for Late Night Service - which extended the hours of operation for all MBTA subway lines and 15 key bus routes to approximately 2:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights – is being reviewed to determine whether it will continue past June 2015, Transportation for Massachusetts urges the MBTA to extend the continuation of this pilot for an additional six to twelve months in order to provide sufficient opportunity for realization and evaluation of its success.

The implementation of Late Night MBTA Service stands to deliver on a part of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh's goal of championing a 24-hour city and positioning Boston as a global business and tourism destination. The service provides direct benefit to shift workers who rely on commuting after traditional business hours, young people patronizing businesses, and corporations who serve customers into the early morning. Unfortunately, the businesses that have benefited from the Late Night Service Pilot have not actually sponsored the program, as was initially conceived.

While university student groups have been among the most outspoken advocates of the service, it is clear from the results of a survey conducted by MassCommute - a statewide coalition of twelve Transportation Management Associations - that people from a range of ages and backgrounds have benefited from the ability to access transit after midnight on weekends, and that people have utilized the service for much more than entertainment purposes:

"I often have critical experiments that extend into the late night, or need late-night check-ins. I also am living cross-country from my husband and children and have flights that arrive to the airport late at night, leaving me having to take an expensive taxi ride. I have been waiting for Boston to extend their service to late night. Please keep this important service available!" -Research Scientist

"This service is absolutely essential to keep me living in Boston/Cambridge and for this city to truly call itself a world-class global city like Chicago, NY, and many others." -Student

However, metrics for evaluating the success or failure of the pilot were never put in place. Clear goals for each line and route would also allow the MBTA to evaluate whether adding or subtracting certain elements would enhance the service or make it more cost effective. In addition, it is unclear whether the MBTA provided sufficient marketing support to achieve success. For instance, ridership, with about 820,00 riders in the first nine months, was relatively robust, but would likely have increased by aggressive marketing of the new service.

Transportation for Massachusetts recognizes the dire budgetary circumstances and lack of resources faced by the MBTA today, and that the Board faces hard choices between competing priorities. However, we believe that significant untapped opportunity exists to bolster the success of the Late Night T program by way of strategic marketing and corporate sponsorship. To support the continuation of this service, which is instrumental to Boston's economy, we offer the following recommendations:

• Extend the Pilot for six to twelve months.
• Set clear goals for each line and route of the Late Night Service Pilot.
• Designate a point person and/or committee within the MBTA to aggressively market the service.
• Make a concerted effort to solicit financial support from the corporate sector, particularly those companies whose profits and/or workforce are significantly influenced by availability of late night transit access.

Thank you for consideration of the above. Please contact Transportation for Massachusetts with any questions or need any further information.

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