Running Late(r): Late-Night T Service to Start Late March/Early April

When it comes to post-midnight T service, we’ve gotta use it or lose it.

Late Night T

Photo illustration by Andrew Davis

Praise the ghost of John Winthrop: Late-night MBTA service is finally real. Starting in late March, the T and select bus routes will stay open until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. So please, ride the damn thing.

When the MBTA tried its Night Owl bus service back in the 2000s, it died quickly from lack of ridership. The new program was designed as a one-year trial run, and will cost the state $20 million. Granted, things are a little different this time. For one, there’ll be actual trains running along T routes (instead of shuttle buses), and we now have apps to help us time our ride.

But let’s do some quick math: On an average Saturday night, the MBTA says 5,200 people ride between midnight and 1 a.m. Let’s say that extending hours will yield another 10,400 riders per weekend night from 1 a.m. to 3 a.m., or about 1.1 million extra rides per year. At $2 a pop, that’s $2.2 million in revenue—about $18 million less than the cost of operations. Some of that will be defrayed by corporate sponsors, but it’s up to us to show that it’s worth their money—and to show politicians that voters will riot if this service ever goes away.

Keep in mind that riding the T after midnight will require some planning. After 1 a.m., trains are slated to run every 10 to 15 minutes, and buses every 15 to 20. As we all know from experience with the MBTA, that’s probably an optimistic estimate. So when you look at your phone at 1:30 a.m. and see that the next Red Line train is 23 minutes away, don’t take a cab. Don’t even walk. Grab another drink or bite to eat and, when it comes, take the T. That is, if you want it back next year.