Dec 24, 2015
The T’s latest experiment with late-night transit launched with high hopes just a year and a half ago. This month, Governor Charlie Baker’s Fiscal and Management Control Board began the process of eliminating it early in the new year. As they contemplate fare hikes and other “unpopular or even painful” choices, T officials have deemed late-night service an experiment that failed.
Yet if a cash-strapped MBTA can’t keep running until bars close on weekend nights, that bodes ill for everything else the agency does. Late-night transit is at the mercy of the same aged equipment, cost structure, political currents, and tortured history that shape the T’s operations during the week.
Strip away the unfair stigma about ferrying around tipsy college students, and late night looks like this: It’s unprofitable, but it fills a niche and increases the T’s overall consumer appeal. In other words, it’s like many other services that the T provides.
So who or what brought late-night transit to this precipice? Let’s consider some of the suspects: