The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority will explore ways to mitigate the impact that ending late-night weekend service will have on low-income and minority riders, after a federally mandated analysis suggested canceling the service could affect the vulnerable populations more than others.
The T will also accept public input through March 23, and riders can email their thoughts to [email protected]. However, the search for mitigation will have no effect on the service’s pending cancelation, with its last hurrah scheduled for this Friday night.
A presentation prepared for the T’s governing board on Wednesday provided examples of potential offsets, including an increase in weekend or early morning bus service on certain lines. It also suggested the T could seek partnerships with private sector transportation companies, an idea the agency has previously said it might explore. Any mitigation plan must include a low price tag and not include changes to rail service, the presentation said.
The T ran the equity analysis using both census data and ridership surveys. The results based on census data did not suggest a disproportionate impact on low-income or minority riders, but the finding based on ridership data from 2008-2009 suggested there would be adverse effects to ending the late-night service.
“Based on the characteristics of the service and the ridership data available, the MBTA believes the best analysis is to use the population data, which doesn’t find a disparate impact,’’ the presentation to the board read. “However, because the equity analysis results are mixed, the MBTA recommends moving to consider, and to provide for, mitigation.’’
The T had originally planned to skip an equity analysis, a federally required study of how ending a service affects different populations, before it voted late last month to cancel late-night service. But in a sharply worded response, the Federal Transit Administration told the T it must complete the analysis and submit it to its board. The agency did so Wednesday, and the board voted to direct T staff to seek mitigations.
The T is still allowed to cancel the service even if it shows a disproportionate impact on low-income or minority populations, as long as it implements measures to blunt the impact or concludes there is no practical way to offset the loss in service.