MBTA Hopes Bridj Can Solve Its Late-Night Problem

Is a private vendor the answer?

Less than a year after the MBTA killed late-night subway and bus service, the cash-strapped transit agency could reach out to those left stranded by the decision with the help of a private vendor.

The T’s fiscal management and control board will hear a proposal from Bridj, a Boston-based, private transit company, which already uses data to chart efficient routes and shuttle passengers around town in its fleet of passengers vans with “nice, big leather seats [and] WiFi.”

“We would simply have service areas that are targeted based off movement patters of Bostonians and folks from surrounding cities who need to move in the late night,” CEO Matthew George told the State House News Service. “It allows us to serve more people in a way that’s a lot more flexible than putting up a fixed route at a fixed time.”

Per the proposal, the T would pay Bridj $85 per vehicle per hour—35 percent less than the cost of putting an MBTA bus on the road. With 10 vehicles running five hours each night, every night, this would amount to $1.55 million price tag. Some of this would be recouped in fares.

“The MBTA would set the fares, customers would register with the Bridj app directly, and then the MBTA would pay Bridj on a per vehicle per hour basis,” MBTA acting general manager Brian Shortsleeve told SHNS. “The T would recoup whatever fare revenue came through the system and Bridj would be paid per hour.”

Almost immediately after the T ceased late-night service in February, Bridj was at the forefront of the conversation over what might come next. Advocates from TransitMatters, meanwhile, have proposed the NightBus, a network of buses runing every 75 minutes on eight routes from 1-5 a.m.—price tag: an estimated $3.5 million.