On Mar. 18, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority will end its weekend late-night service, which currently runs until 2 a.m. This means that the final train will depart from Park Street at 12:30 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The MBTA board voted 4-0 to end the service due to its $14.4 million cost during 2015. The MBTA is currently operating under a severe mountain of debt, and its upcoming budget already has a projected $242 million deficit.
In the face of these staggering issues, the removal of a $14.4 million service does not save a considerable amount, especially when one considers the countless problems that continually set the service back, both financially and in regard to service.
The service itself is necessary if Boston wants to retain college graduates and attract new workers. Progress toward improving the city and making it a place where young men and women entering the workplace want to live is severely hindered by a lack of late-night transportation. One major attraction of living in a city is the nightlife, something that is nearly impossible to have without transportation. Beyond that, a late-night service could legitimize the sense of modernization in the city and incentivize residents.
Boston does not have a reliably safe and affordable alternative to T service for those requiring late-night transportation. As it stands, those working late nights at restaurants and in various late-night jobs can easily be left stranded, forced to seek a more expensive, or potentially less safe, method of transportation.
While removing late-night service does save the aforementioned $14.4 million, that does not get anywhere near dealing with the deficit under which the T is operating. At this point, the T is facing a far more inherent and inreasingly difficult to confront problem that requires a more substantial, long-term, and deeply-rooted solution. Issues like frequent free riders, who ignore drivers and do not pay for the service, as well as efficiency problems, bog down the T.
Developing a new system of enforcement that helps to ensure the payment of fares, such as through the building of turnstiles in select stops, is one step toward addressing the constant money lost. This obviously will not be enough considering the $242 million deficit, but it will help to shore up the basic problems that lead to lost money every day without eliminating important parts of public transportation.
Cutting late-night service will not have a dramatic impact on the debt-ridden MBTA budget. It will instead hurt the city of Boston by removing an important incentive that attracts people to the city, hindering the possibility of progress.
Featured Image by Kristin Saleski / Heights Staff