Bostonians who use the T frequently are not surprised by a sign on the platform that says "LAST TRAIN: 12:45." But for visitors from other cities where public transportation runs all night, this can be quite a shock. For local college students who try to enjoy the city's nightlife on a budget, the T's schedule can be difficult to maneuver.
This problem has led a group of Suffolk University students to launch a campaign in January, called "Boston Stay Up." The social media campaign is aiming to use Facebook and Twitter (@beantownstayup) to urge Boston residents to stay up later and support extended hours for the T.
On its Facebook group, the campaign says that later hours will help Boston compare to other world class cities. "Boston is great place to live, visit, and explore...until 12:30. Boston is a world class city and it's a hub for culture, higher education and the arts; but unlike most world class cities, public transportation doesn't run all night," the page says.
College students are not the only ones who are noticing the dilemma. The MBTA Ruder Oversight Committee, an independent public advocacy group, is currently conducting an MBTA "After Hours’ Service Survey” to gain a better understanding of how the public feels about extended hours. The group plans to deliver its results in a report to MBTA officials.
Earlier this year, Gov. Deval Patrick proposed a transportation plan aimed at helping the public service, which is struggling financially, through increasing fares and tax hikes. If lawmakers accept Patrick's plan, extended hours could be part of the package, meaning the T could stay open later on weekends if the plan gets the required funding.
Even if there is public support for later service, MBTA officials have said that all-night service is not coming any time soon. “Given the enormous strain on the MBTA’s limited resources, the Authority cannot even consider an extension of service hours before action is taken on the ‘21st Century Transportation Plan', ” said Joe Pesaturo, MBTA Spokesman, referring to Patrick's plan, in an interview with Bostinno.com.
Aside from budgetary factors, there are other considerations. Most of the track maintenance done by crews takes place between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. Officials also need to determine if there is enough demand for ridership during later hours. Despite the current situation probably not changing, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has not ruled it out completely.
“The MBTA is investigating providing service beyond our current 1 a.m. schedule on a pilot basis where there is ridership demand,” according to a statement from MassDOT officials. “If additional operating funds are identified, major bus routes and the most heavily traveled portions of the subway and light rail systems will be considered for extra service,” the statement said.
This change would undoubtedly affect college students in the city, like the Suffolk students who launched the "Boston Stay Up" campaign.
"As students of Suffolk University, the MBTA is our main source of transportation and it keeps us from fully enjoying nightlife," the group says on its webpage. "We want to bring this issue to the city and we would like to hear what you, as residents or visitors, have to say about the T shutting down. Let this be your outlet for your frustrations and suggestions," the group says.
Feature photo courtesy of robtm2010/Flickr.