Metro, The T

Boston Business Owners Laud Efforts To Modernize Public Transit

Officials Believe Improved Nightlife Will Attract Young Professionals To The City

Currently, a Friday or Saturday night in Boston goes something like this: Frugal bar patrons hurriedly close their tabs around midnight so as to catch the last T home. Those who choose not to catch the T are left to compete for a finite number of cabs on the street as bars close between 1 and 2 a.m.

Starting on Friday, March 28, however, the MBTA will launch its Late Night Pilot Program, in which all subway and Key Bus routes will run service for an extra hour and a half on Fridays and Saturdays, meaning that the last trains will now depart downtown stations at 2:30 a.m. on weekends. On Sunday through Thursday, the last trains will depart at 1 a.m.

“Late night T service is the result of listening to our citizens and trying to respond to their needs,” Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said in a press release. “World class cities offer late night public transit, to support the workforce and a vibrant nightlife, and Boston is a world class city.”

The fare for a ride will not increase during the extended weekend hours. To cover the cost of the new service, the MBTA has launched a sponsorship program, which already includes The Boston Globe, the Boston Red Sox, and Dunkin’ Donuts. In addition, the Future Boston Alliance (FBA) is launching a crowd-sourcing effort to support the service.

Patrick’s administration and MBTA officials hope that modernizing Boston’s public transit system will help increase the city’s population of young professionals, may otherwise opt to live in cities that are known to keep later hours.

“From students to entrepreneurs to service employees, late night service will allow a wide cross-section of our vibrant population to better travel home from both work and play,” said MBTA General Manager Beverley Scott, according to a press release.

Indeed, Boston business owners are lauding the move to modernize the city’s nightlife, saying that it will both improve business and satisfy their customers’ needs.

Christine Corning, a manager at The Pour House, said that bar patrons will keep their tabs open later knowing that they have a cheap, safe way home. “I know that it will be great for business,” she said. Herself a patron at bars, Corning said that it will be nice “not having to worry” about catching the last T long before she wants her night to be over.

Norm Laviolette, co-owner of both Improv Asylum and Laugh Boston, said that he is glad customers at his popular comedy venues will have a safe way to reach home after their late-night shows, which sometimes end well after midnight. “The issue is that the people attending those shows have to find other ways of getting home, because the T’s not running,” he said, and this can be a “recipe for disaster.”

In similar moves to modernize the city, Mayor Martin J. Walsh, WCAS ’09 recently announced the creation of a task force that will examine allowing bars and restaurants in the city to stay open later, and announced last week that a pilot program for food trucks to stay open until midnight on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays will launch on April 1. Food trucks selected for the pilot program will open for business in Copley Square, Boston University, or Northeastern University, locations selected based on foot traffic and safety.

“Food truck owners and customers have been asking for later hours for food trucks, and we’ve been listening,” Walsh said, according to a press release from his office.

Should this pilot program receive positive feedback from food truck owners and the Mobile Food Truck Committee, it may be expanded to other areas throughout the city.

“I’ll be curious to see what happens,” said Melissa Gale, owner of The Cookie Monstah, a food truck that will be participating in the late-night pilot program. “This may prompt us to stay out a little bit later.”

Gale said that she is not certain the pilot program will have a significant effect on the hours kept by food trucks owners, many of whom may simply wish to keep their normal hours. For those who wish to stay out later, however, Gale said that the pilot program will be “perfect.”

Moves to modernize the city were a crucial part of Walsh’s platform during his mayoral campaign, and he argued that improving the city’s culture would benefit Boston economically as well.

“An international business hub needs a truly cosmopolitan culture,” Walsh said in a March 7 press release.

Asst. Metro Editor Bennet Johnson contributed to this report.

March 19, 2014

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