Few issues facing the next mayor of Boston resonate as much with the city’s college students as improving the T and extending its closing hours past 12:30 a.m. As a hot-button issue for college students and other young people, The Boston Globe stated that, “Few topics rile up the under-30 set quite like complaining about the T’s early closing time.”
The T’s hours also present a difficulty for third shift service industry workers, who are oftentimes without an affordable means of returning home once their shifts end. Each of the 12 mayoral candidates has staked out positions ahead of the Sept. 24 preliminary election, producing varying plans, goals and expectations about what a new and potentially improved MBTA would look like in his or her administration.
The Gavel asked nine candidates where he or she stood on the issue of expanding the T’s hours. We also looked at each candidate’s various public statements to ensure that the entire issue was properly reflected.
Several candidates, such as City Councilors Mike Ross and Felix Arroyo, have made extending the T’s hours a cornerstone of their campaigns. Both are among the younger candidates in the race. Ross is 41 and Arroyo is 34.
Councilor Ross told The Gavel, “Boston can no longer afford to shut down its transit system at 12:30 a.m. To fund this service expansion, I will work with our area universities to implement the U-Pass program, which lets those institutions purchase MBTA passes for every one of their students at discounted rates.” Ross stated that the U-Pass system has the potential to generate, “close to $50 million in revenue for the MBTA.”
At-Large Councilor Felix Arroyo has repeatedly proclaimed that, “Our MBTA should be 24/7. I support progressive new revenue options and reforms necessary to fund the city's critically needed long-term investments.”
Fellow At-Large City Councilor John Connolly, one of the race’s frontrunners in terms of polling and fundraising, also supports extending the T’s hours. “We’ve got to go past midnight. Whether it’s 2 a.m. or 4 a.m., that’s a decision we can figure out . . . but truly, we are hurting the economic potential of this city with limited T hours.”
Although the issue draws the attention and ire of the city’s young people, several candidates have not placed a specific emphasis on the T. State Representative and Boston College graduate Marty Walsh told The Gavel, “MBTA funding is a state rather than municipal issue, but I would certainly be interested in exploring expansion. In my first three months in office, we will do a comprehensive transportation study for needs assessment.”
Similarly, both City Councilor Rob Consalvo and former State Representative Charlotte Golar Richie have not made extending T hours a centerpiece of their campaign. Representative Richie wants to help solve the aforementioned issue by making, “an effort to create transportation hubs in the city, by identifying places where people want to be; those hubs could have things like pedicabs, schedules and zip cars.”
Rounding out the field, Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley and former Boston School Committee member John Barros both support working with area colleges to institute the U-Pass.
District Attorney Conley will make “encouraging colleges and universities and major employers to purchase Charlie Cards at discounted rates in bulk for students and employees” a part of his administration. Likewise, Barros has commented, “To help increase ridership, I will work towards the implementation of a U-Pass for all university students in Boston through bulk purchases of passes by universities.”
Community Organizer Bill Walczak said, “It is imperative that we improve late-night transportation in Boston. Boston needs to become a 24-hour city, extending the runtimes of buses and subways, in order to cater to the needs
of those workers as well as to stimulate business that comes from the bustling nightlife that exists in our city.” Like Marty Walsh, Walczak emphasized that the MBTA is a regional, not municipal issue, and that funding comes from the state level.
With this and other issues being widely discussed, the preliminary mayoral election is scheduled for Sept. 24. From there, the current field of 12 will be narrowed down to two, who will square off in the general election on Nov. 5.
Featured image via Eric Kilby/Wikimedia Commons.