The Massachusetts Bay Transport Authority will end its weekend late-night service by Mar. 18. The board voted unanimously this Tuesday to cut back the hours by 90 minutes on weekends, according to The Boston Globe.
The vote comes after months of deliberation on how the MBTA would attempt to cut costs that have landed the service in deep debt. The program cost approximately $14 million in subsidies in 2015.
In early December the board had already “asked the staff to begin the process of cancelling” the service, according to The Boston Globe. The MBTA board has presented a well-documented and united front on the issue for many months.
Since this service was instituted under former governor Deval Patrick in Mar. 2014, many in the Boston area have become reliant on it, especially low-income workers, college students, construction workers, and restaurant employees. According to MBTA officials, ridership averaged around 16,000 during its first few months, then dropped, and now averages around 13,000 every weekend.
“I feel like Boston’s late-night life will suffer because people won’t have an easy and reliable way to commute into and out of the city,” Ryan Gardner, MCAS ’19, said. “By abolishing the late-night service, Boston could lose the attraction of the younger crowds that tend to go to those events.”
Proponents of the service also claim that the value of these extra hours for commuters make it an imperative public service to the Boston area, with many groups of people relying on its affordability and safety.
“I don’t think a whole lot of BC kids absolutely depended on the T’s late-night services week in and week out,” Harrison Bert, CSOM ’19, said. “It wasn’t one of those things. It was one of those options that you never really used, but that was definitely nice to have in your back pocket.”
MBTA Chief Administrator Brian Shortsleeve has defined the closing of the original $243 million budget gap for fiscal year 2017 as the MBTA’s first priority and the most crucial component to its success. Both spending and revenue must be aggressively restructured to deviate the MBTA from the path toward fiscal insolvency and structural collapse that it was on prior to this new administration.
While this deficit has been reduced by 43 percent, now projected at $138 million, the Fiscal Management and Control Board’s decisive 4-0 execution of the late-night service during Monday’s meeting expresses the administration’s contentment with this reduced budget.
“The deficit is still quite large, but it’s better, and an improvement in the right direction,”board member Monica G. Tibbits-Nutt said to The Boston Globe. “We [still] have a long way to go.”
Officials have also said that running these busses and subway trains late into the night reduces the time the MBTA has to do overnight maintenance or repairs on the machinery.
Despite its decline in ridership and lack of cost-efficiency, it has no doubt been more successful than the MBTA’s first late-night transportation service, “Night Owl.” This bus service, which ran along common bus routes, began in 2001 and was abandoned four years later, after attracting a ridership that averaged 700 passengers each night.
The board and administration hope to reinvest in core services. MBTA officials have laid out an allotment of much-needed infrastructure improvements that will be paid for by savings in operating expenses, according to a press release. While these investments may not be as tangible to the rider, they will, in the long-term, be far more beneficial, according to MBTA officials.
In its press release Monday, the MBTA explained that it will allocate $70 million of the $104 million in projected savings from its operating budget to major signal improvements on the Green, Red and Orange lines. While this may not seem like a huge improvement, up to 30 percent of subway service delays are directly related to the aging of these systems. Through these types of improvements, the MBTA board and officials are attempting to construct a long-lasting and highly functional transportation system for the greater Boston area.
Next Monday the board members are scheduled to decide exactly how much the MBTA fares will be raised, if at all. The board is currently considering two proposals of raising fares by an average of 6.7 percent, generating $33 million or 9.8 percent, generating $49 million, with some T officials advocating a 10 percent fare hike.
Featured Image by Francisco Ruela/ Senior Staff