When the MBTA rolled out its new late-night service on trains and select bus routes in March, the T stressed that it was up to riders to keep the initiative going beyond the planned one-year pilot program; “use it, or lose it” became the mantra of transit officials from the get-go.
And so far, for the most part, passengers have heeded the MBTA’s advice—with one exception.
On Wednesday, the T reported that the late-night service option saw a steady, consecutive increase in ridership over the first three weeks of availability, with straphangers returning from bars and clubs packing the platforms more and more. But surprisingly, those numbers dipped as the first month of the new service came to an end, on the weekend leading up to the Boston Marathon.
According to stats provided by T officials, the first weekend of late-night service drew roughly 18,069 trips as the excitement reached a fever pitch. By week two, that number spiked by roughly 600 riders, reaching 18,671 total trips for the entire weekend. While only a small bump in the numbers, the increase was an early indicator that the pilot program was headed in the right direction.
Similarly, by the third weekend, April 12 through the 13, ridership again surged, as more than 19,995 passengers passed through the gates between the hours of 12:30 a.m. and 3 a.m.
During week four, however, the T saw a steep decline. Officials said data recorded for the weekend of April 19-20 showed that only 15,322 riders utilized the late-night service. In an email to Boston, T Spokesman Joe Pesaturo said the transit agency isn’t likely to harvest any helpful information in terms of identifying what may have caused the decrease in ridership by examining just one of the pilot program’s 52 weekends of total service, however.
Regardless of the blip, Pesaturo said the T remains optimistic about the weeks to come. “The MBTA is pleased to see that tens of thousands of people took advantage of the subway’s extended service hours during the first month of the year-long pilot program,” he said.
Overall, numbers for all four weekends are expected to rise, as well. That’s due to the fact that the data compiled by the transit agency doesn’t include rides taken by passengers using above-ground Green Line trolleys and available late-night buses.
Pesaturo said all the T can do for now is closely monitor the next 48 weeks worth of ridership data to come to a final conclusion about whether or not the program can extend beyond this year. “The pilot program is a year-long one, and the data collected over 12 months will be examined in its entirety,” he said.
Below is the data from the first four weeks of service:
Source URL: https://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/2014/04/23/mbta-late-night-service-numbers/
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