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Boston City Councilors File Resolution in Support of Late-Night T

UPDATED: March 12, 2015, at 12:34 a.m.

Boston city councilors unanimously supported a resolution urging the continuation of late-night MBTA service at a Council meeting on Wednesday. The resolution was filed by Councilors Michelle Wu ’07 and Josh Zakim.

A one-year pilot phase of late-night T service, which keeps the T open Friday and Saturday nights up until 3 a.m., is set to expire in June. After that point, the service—which is heavily used by college students and part of an effort to keep young professionals in the Greater Boston area—could stay as is, face alteration, or end altogether. Its future will be determined on April 15.

MBTA Extension

The Boston city councilors’ resolution urges the Massachusetts Department of Transportation board of directors to make the late-night T service permanent and continue to consider funding options and service alterations. According to Wu, councilors unanimously supported the resolution in a roll-call vote.

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“Every major city has [ways] for people to get around the city after midnight,” Wu said in an interview. “I think this past year’s pilot showed that late-night T service cuts across all sectors of Boston's economy.”

Whether or not to extend the late-night T, which began in part to make it easier for young professionals to access Boston nightlife on weekends, may be a difficult call for officials. Robin Chase, a member of the MassDOT board of directors, said she likes the service but is worried about budget constraints.

“Budget issues are always an issue,” she said. “It’s a great service, and the City of Boston should have something like that, but we have to figure out who’s going to pay for it and what we’re substituting for it.”

MassDOT will ultimately decide the fate of the late-night T.

Some outside groups have similarly expressed budget concerns about the MBTA more generally. On Wednesday, a report by the watchdog group Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation concluded in part that the MBTA should halt expansion projects for 2015. The report painted a bleak picture for the MBTA, arguing that the state should conduct an independent audit of the T.

One reason for the system’s problem, according to the report, is "a stark mismatch between spending and revenues."

While extending late-night T service does not involve infrastructure expansion, it remains to be seen if the report could discourage any extra spending on the late night T, Wu said. An MBTA interim review reported that pilot of the late-night service was budgeted, after revisal, for $12.9 million.

The councilors’ resolution offered suggestions to offset the cost of extending the program, such as raising late-night fares, encouraging partnerships from colleges and universities, and licensing late-night food vendors in MBTA stations.

“Every penny matters right now for public transportation,” Wu said. “[But] the bang we get for [the cost] is huge.”

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

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