Opinion: Boston Needs to Wake Up

As a New Yorker, I was shocked to find out that, up until last march, Boston’s public transportation system virtually shuts down at midnight. At home, so many people rely on late-night service to get back safely after nights out or late nights working. Its disappearance would be devastating to the vibrant culture and the economy that is part of what makes New York so appealing to people from around the world. It’s not just New York, either. London, Paris and Chicago, to name a few, all have some form of late night service. If Boston wants to shake its reputation as a boring “city that sleeps” and catch up to these other first class cities, late-night T service needs to be made permanent.

In a city filled with college students and recent graduates, Boston should have a booming late night economy and a lively night life, but people are less likely to go out when they need to be on their way home by 11:30 at the latest. Boston restricts its own economy and culture by not running the T late at night. Concerts, bars, restaurants and clubs that could have stayed open later lose patrons, and Bostonians miss out on a full night of fun. It is too expensive for most people to take cabs or Ubers everywhere and, even worse, it isn’t safe to drive home after a night out of drinking. By shutting down the public transportation system at night, Boston is hurting itself and preventing potential growth.

Likewise, as the country’s center of academia, Boston should be attracting young professionals for its many cultural attractions as well as economic opportunities. However, a lack of late night service makes Boston inhospitable for young professionals. Boston has the businesses and schools to attract workers, but the city does not support an urban culture where young people can thrive on a budget. New York’s subway has 24-hour service, and Chicago’s L keeps two of its routes open 24 hours. It’s easy for young people to merely look a few hours south and see a city that is more welcoming and provides accessibility to its culture .

A lack of late night service has a huge economic impact on Boston. Late night service will give employers the power to attract and maintain top talent looking to build careers and enjoy great social lives. Boston businesses, and therefore the city itself, have a lot to gain from attracting more workers. It’s not just the young professionals either. The late night service industry workers who are the backbone of the Boston economy will have a better and safer option for getting home. Unlike having to drive in to work or take a cab, the T provides an affordable way to commute and will encourage businesses to stay open later.

Andrew Gross / Gavel Media

Andrew Gross / Gavel Media

Approximately 865,000 Bostonians utilized the temporary service this year, but at a cost of about $13 per rider and a total cost of $16 million. It is unclear if the city will deem the project a success when it is losing money. “We realize it’s something a lot of people would like, and it’s something we want to explore,” MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said. “But we can’t do that until we stabilize our finances.” This will be an especially difficult decision because Massachusetts voters repealed a law last November that made the tax on gas increase automatically with inflation. This tax revenue went to public transportation and the MBTA is already facing budget cuts as a direct result. Despite losing money, the city should continue the service. The economic benefits alone justify the loss, and the service will most likely become more popular as Bostonians incorporate it into their lives. It will certainly contribute to the economy in other long term and impactful ways. Boston should see it as an investment in the city’s future.

Many Boston College students wish that they could get out of the infamous “BC Bubble” more often. Is the reason that we don’t feel we are utilizing Boston fully due to a flawed transportation system? When polled, 2/3 of students said that they had used late night weekday service and a little under half had tried late night weekend service. Students liked the service and overwhelmingly said that they want it to continue. Most respondents even wanted more trains and service that went even later. At least one person said that they relied on the service for a job and another said, “Late night service is necessary so I don’t know why it would stop.” There are so many great restaurants, cultural centers and entertainment venues in Boston; it is truly a cosmopolitan city and deserves a transportation system to match it.

It is time for Boston to step up and provide this necessary service permanently, even if that means tweaking the system to only run popular lines late at night. Bostonians need an affordable transportation system that allows them to experience all this incredible city has to offer.