As T ends late-night service, Bridj makes pitch to take over


As the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s governing board planned to vote on whether to end late-night weekend service Monday, Boston-based private shuttle service Bridj launched a website in a push to replace the service on a contract basis with the agency.

The startup, which has offered service between Greater Boston neighborhoods based on demand since 2014, says on the site that it is “ready to step in and work with [agency leaders] to quickly implement a whole new type of service to keep Boston open for business.’’

The T’s board voted to cancel the service by March 18 Monday afternoon.


While the board indicated for months that it planned to shutter late-night service, the agency has also said it is open to finding a private-sector partner to partially replace the service.

Bridj recently began teaming with Kansas City’s transit system, offering shuttle service in the Missouri city.

Bridj’s commuter routes in the Boston area are somewhat limited, running between select neighborhoods in Cambridge, Boston, and Brookline. In an interview, Bridj CEO Matthew George said the company would adjust the service area for late-night service and that service requirements would likely be decided by the T or the state Department of Transportation.

“Late-night service would be a service area that would correlate with late-night service,’’ he said. “It would have no barriers based on where we provide service right now.’’

The prospect of contracting transit services to the private sector has been a controversial point at the T. The Boston Carmen’s Union, whose members operate the T’s vehicles, have adamantly argued against all privatization efforts.

The union’s president, Jim O’Brien, declined to comment on Bridj’s pitch because he had not seen the website. George said Bridj is open to using union labor if it wound up replacing late-night service. Asked specifically whether he would work with the Carmen’s Union, George said only that he has had no discussions with the union.


On the new website, Bridj posted its 2015 response to a request for information from the T for replacing late-night service. In the document, the company says it can cut operating costs for public transit agencies by 30 to 70 percent by contracting with them.

The RFI response also suggests a two-year contract term, with a two-year option to extend for the MBTA. It says that if the T were to require new vehicles specifically for the late-night service, it would be “appropriate’’ for any contract to run longer.

At this point, it’s not clear how eager T leaders are to contract the service. The agency issued the RFI last year, and its public input period about ending the service welcomed comments about finding late-night alternatives. But some board members have previously questioned whether the agency should be in the business of offering extended hours in the first place.

And the cost-cutting effect of eliminating late-night service would be at least partially undone by contracting the service out.

Following Monday’s vote, Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said the agency wouldn’t know until next year’s budget is finalized whether any money would be available to subsidize a contracted late-night service.

Pollack said “we continue to be very interested’’ in working with a private company to offer late-night transit. But even if the T could afford it, a partnership could face difficulty because private services might not be able to read MBTA passes, she said.

“The fare collection equipment we currently use on buses, for example, is very expensive to install,’’ she said. “We’d have to figure out either a technological fix, or there would have to be a decision made that your T pass is not in fact going to be a form of payment.’’


Correction: A previous version of this article said George was open to working with the Carmen’s Union. George said he was open to working with organized labor, but did not specify the Carmen’s Union.

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