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Future of Late-Night T to Open for Public Debate

The MBTA is planning to extend late-night service on weekends until about 2:30 am starting March 28. The one-year pilot program will provide weekend services on all subways and the most popular bus lines.
The MBTA is planning to extend late-night service on weekends until about 2:30 am starting March 28. The one-year pilot program will provide weekend services on all subways and the most popular bus lines. By Zorigoo Tugsbayar
By Samuel E. Liu, Crimson Staff Writer

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority will host a series of public hearings in March to help decide the future of the pilot program that keeps the T open late on the weekends. One of the four potential options presented in the MBTA’s Interim Review is to discontinue the program altogether.

The late-night T, which began in part as an effort to make Greater Boston more compatible with the lifestyles of young professionals, keeps MBTA services open until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.

The pilot period program began last March and is set to expire in June. The five public hearings, one of which will be in Cambridge at the Sheraton Commander Hotel on March 9, will take place between March 2 and March 11.  In addition, a Twitter town hall will be held on March 2, under the hashtag #latenightservice.

After the hearings, the MBTA will make a final recommendation to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation board of directors on April 15.

College students represent a large portion of the users of the late night service, with the heaviest usage of the late-night stations occurring in neighborhoods with large student populations, according to the report. Harvard Station represented the 4th busiest late-night station.

Boston City Councilwoman Michelle Wu ’07 said last week that the program would help keep students in the Greater Boston region post-graduation. Yesterday, at a Council meeting, she and Councilman Josh Zakim filed an order for a hearing regarding the program’s continuation.

“Many students after they graduate college immediately think about going to [other cities], so what we need to do as a city is do a better job of retaining the talent that comes here,” she said. “Part of that is that Boston needs to be more welcoming place for young people, and having an exciting, accessible nightlife, is a big part of that.”

Former Undergraduate Council Vice President Sietse K. Goffard ’15 said he strongly supports the continuation of the service extension.

“I highly encourage Harvard students to go out, go to as many meetings as they can,” he said. “This time more than ever it is critical that young people like Harvard students get engaged in community matters [that] mean a lot to them.”

In its report, the MBTA listed four options for the future of the program: elimination, cost reduction through service adjustments, fare changes, and sponsorships.

With a state budget deficit of approximately $765 million, some officials say whether or not to continue the program, which would cost $12.9 million, will be a difficult call.

“I think it’s too early to say it’s on the chopping block,” then-acting MassDOT secretary Frank Depaola told a State House News Service reporter last month. “But in the light of our current state budgetary issues, we do have to be fiscally prudent.”

The MBTA presented its report on the program at a board meeting Wednesday, after a highly-anticipated discussion of the MBTA’s closures in the recent snow season.

At that meeting, speakers and MBTA board members defended MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott, who had come under fire for MBTA suspensions of services in the past week. Dr. Scott publicly announced her resignation in a letter to MBTA board members later that afternoon.

—Staff writer Samuel E. Liu can be reached at samuel.liu@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @samuelliu96.

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