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The problem with late-night T service

Posted by Karyn Polewaczyk  December 4, 2013 11:45 AM

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subway-spider.jpgCredit: MBTA.com

Earlier this week, the governor announced the pending return of late-night public transit, with subways and popular bus routes extended until 3 AM on Saturday and Sunday nights (read: late-Friday into early-Saturday and late-Saturday into early-Sunday). While there’s lots to potentially celebrate, the warning signs are glaring.

To start, the extended hours are pegged to start in “March or April,” which, in Massachusetts speak, means June or July, when the city is at its sleepiest thanks to an exodus of students and vacationers. If the program isn’t popular, then it’s going away (though to the governor’s credit, there isn’t a timeline specified as to how long he’ll wait to scrap it). Patrick cited his concern for people who work in the Innovation District—entrepreneurs and programmers and people who speak venture capital—because “they live differently,” and work late hours. On the weekend? Maybe. But hospitality industry workers, who also greatly contribute to our economy, do, and they barely received acknowledgment in any of the articles I’ve read about the announcement, or his press release.

There’s also the consideration of alternate transportation in the form of Uber and Lyft. Both companies offer extremely competitive pricing and customer service, and while public transit might offer the most bang for the buck, I’m not the only one who finds value in paying a bit more for a private ride—like the $6 Uber X trip I recently took across town that would have set me back at least $10 in cab fare, and an additional 20 minutes on the T—or to avoid the inevitable late-night drunken revelry on the subway.

Finally, the extension of service won’t just be that—extended hours—it’ll be branded with advertising jargon, thanks to financial assistance from TBA corporate sponsors. I can certainly appreciate that fares, as far as we’ve been told, won’t increase (extended service also means extended employees on the clock, including those who work on the lines overnight); I just question how far the branding will go. Imagery and text plastered all over the cars is one thing; audio and video components, which are entirely plausible, are another. (I know I’m not the only one, too, who takes solace in a book or iPod while cruising through the tunnels.)

So bring it on, MBTA. I’ll certainly count myself among the guinea pigs who’ll climb aboard the Red Line after a night out at the Middlesex Lounge. But as a lifelong Massachusetts resident, I’ve seen how badly the state can screw up its transportation “solutions” (Big Dig, anyone?). Still, your denizens are waiting with bated breath. We just won’t hold it for very long.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About this blog

Karyn Polewaczyk lives and writes in Boston, and believes that heading out into that good night, like any adventure, begins with the first step. Let's Go Out is a conversation about dating and nightlife in our notoriously chilly city, with first-hand tips from the trenches. Karyn's writing, which focuses largely on women's lifestyle topics, has appeared in the Weekly Dig, Jezebel, xoJane, Northshore Magazine and More.com, among others. Follow her on Twitter at @KarynPolewaczyk.

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