The early spring season has already included many major changes for the MBTA, including the extension of its public transit service hours and the two-year closing of Government Center, the T station located under City Hall Plaza in the heart of downtown Boston.
Starting tomorrow, the MBTA will extend its service hours on Friday and Saturday nights, keeping the T running until 3 a.m. On weeknights, the final T will leave its designated station at 1 a.m, still a 25-minute extension from its customary 12:35 a.m. departure time. Bostonians welcome the extended service hours, as do Boston College students hoping to expand their weekend nightlife options.
“I haven’t been to any bars past Cleveland Circle,” said Matt Burke, A&S ’15, who turned 21 last month. “But now I will definitely check out some places further into the city, because I know I can get back without taking a cab.” Burke said that he hopes the extended hours will become a permanent fixture of the MBTA.
“Boston doesn’t have the most lively nightlife, but [the extended hours] could help it become more active,” he said.
While residents anticipate the positive effects of the extended hours on their weekend commute, many have already started to dread the other major MBTA change, which will significantly affect their commutes during the week.
Government Center closed on Saturday for a complete construction overhaul, which will last until the spring of 2016. The $82 million project has one definitive purpose: to make the station accessible to people with disabilities. As it stands, Government Center is only accessible by sets of stairs and escalators. In order to bring the station-the ninth busiest in the MBTA system-into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Boston Center for Independent Living (BCIL) Agreement, two sets of elevators will be installed.
Mark Prescott, the public relations director for the Boston Street Railway Association, emphasized the pervasive nature of the project. “A full two-year closure of a major downtown transfer station is unprecedented,” said Prescott in an email. “Orient Heights Station, on the Blue Line in East Boston, closed for approximately six months for renovations in 2013. Within the last decade, Park Street and State Street have been renovated but were not closed for the duration of the project.”
While simply bringing a station up to code seems at odds with the project’s lengthy duration, the convergence of the Green and Blue Lines in the station necessitates a total redesign to accommodate the necessary handicap requirements. All the mechanical, electrical, and subsystems within the station must be redone to function with the new accommodations. The majority of construction will take place underground.
For those who regularly travel through Government Center, the T recommends allotting an extra 10 to 15 minutes into the commute, but Prescott advised 15 to 20 minutes. Green Line trains will still be able to travel through Government Center during the construction, but will not stop at the station. The Green Line branches-B, C, D, and E-will end at either Park Street or North Station, depending on the specific line and time of day.
Sara Williams, an intern at Hill Holliday and A&S ’14, fears the effect of the closing on her bi-weekly commute. “I go to Government Center twice a week, so it’s going to be a big pain,” said Williams. “Everyone in the office is really concerned as well.” Like many others who work at or near City Hall Plaza, Williams plans to either walk to her office from the Park Street stop, or transfer to the Orange Line to continue to State Street.
When Jacqueline Delgado, A&S ’14, first found out about the Government Center closing, she considered how the construction would affect those unfamiliar with the T system. “I’m graduating in May, and my parents have to go through Government Center to transfer [lines] from the airport,” she said. “Most of my family is from Florida, and they’re not used to public transportation or Boston in general. It’s complicating matters for me, working out logistics for them.”
T riders may soon see fare hikes in addition to their re-routed commutes.
On Tuesday, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation Finance Committee proposed a 10-cent increase for subway and rides, and a $5 increase in the MBTA monthly pass. Public meetings will be held in April to discuss the hikes, which, should the proposal pass, would take effect as early as July 1.