What Kind of City: Boston Must Decide On Its Identity

Last month, when the MBTA announced that the T would no longer run its late-night service, I didn’t realize right away the impact it could have on the city, and particularly, on myself. Most college students in the city depend on public transportation to get from place to place, as having a car if often out of our price range. And that’s without taking into consideration parking expenses, especially on campus, where the rates can run up to $600 per semester if you are one of the lucky few who manage to secure a spot.

To be honest, I had not given much thought about the decision to cut back the hours until late last week, when I found myself waiting for a train to come by at 12:45 a.m. by Babcock St. I waited and waited, only to finally remember that it had all been in vain. No T would come.

I had to then splurge on a Uber to get back to campus. Once I did ($20 lighter—there was a surcharge), I couldn’t believe that a city that is trying to promote itself as modern would still not feature public transportation that ran late into the night. When a near-by city like New York has trains that run 24/7, it is apparent that Boston is falling behind.

When Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, WCAS ’09, ran for office, he fought to improve the nightlife of the city, hoping to have bars close closer to 3 a.m., according to The Boston Globe.

That dream doesn’t seem too likely now without access to public transportation. Nevertheless, and in keeping with the city’s entrepreneurial nature, ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft are aiming to tap into this newly created market. The MBTA’s loss could be their ultimate gain.

In a time when taxi companies are becoming more and more estranged from the public, especially college students, who are unwilling to wait the 30 minutes it usually takes for a taxi to get to your location, ride-sharing companies have been discussing the possibility of featuring pilot programs to make up for the loss of public transportation.

The MBTA cited low ridership as one of the main reasons for suspending the service, according to the Globe. But that number during the later months of the service was still around 13,000 riders, down from 17,000 when the program started, during the weekends according to the same article.

Those 13,000 individuals still needed to find a way back home, with many, including myself, having to pay exorbitant fares that were sometimes six times as much as they normally would have been if the T functioned at that time—a $3 T fare compared to an $18 Uber.

So the question remains, who is at fault here? Is it the MBTA for not prioritizing a necessary service over other relatively less important projects like repainting all of the B-line trains when they were already in good shape? Is it the ride-sharing companies for not implementing the programs they said they would? Or is it a case of trying to turn Boston into something it’s just not?

I remember my aunt’s description of Boston everytime I run into this problem: “It is not a city, but rather it’s a large town,” she says.

And I am beginning to believe her.

There is a sharp contrast between here and my hometown of Miami, Fla. Back home, if I want to go out to eat at 10:30 p.m. not only do I have myriad options to choose from, but I’ll probably have to wait for a table as well. In Boston, finding a restaurant that will sit you after 9 p.m. is challenging.

It is the case of deciding what type of city we wish to live in, and I am not advocating for one over the other, but rather, of leveling expectations. If we want a late-night city, it is up to us.

Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor

About Juan Olavarria 70 Articles
Juan Olavarria is the Metro Editor for The Heights. He is double majoring in Economics and Philosophy. He enjoys watching Liverpool FC and has to frequently remind himself to stop trying to defend the merits of a midfield diamond. You can follow him on Twitter at @Juan_Heights.