Transportation

The MBTA Is Moving Forward with Late Night Buses

A new plan would keep service running until 4:15 a.m.


Boston, it looks like we have another shot at making late-night public transportation work. After a series of failed experiments, the MBTA is back at it again.

The transit agency is now requesting ideas from vendors that would be able to shuttle passengers from 1 a.m. to 4:15 a.m., when the T is closed for the night. WGBH was first to report on the solicitation Monday.

The buses would run every half-hour on a path that stretches from Mattapan through downtown, East Boston, and north into Chelsea and Revere. It would mean the T would, for the first time in a long time, offer service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As an added bonus, the buses would be free to board for the first 9 months.

“We’re trying to see what the appetite is to provide this service, what the cost of the service would be, and then we’ll try to make a thoughtful decision about what’s a sustainable financial model for night bus service,” MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board member Steve Poftak told reporters on Monday, according to the State House News Service.

Boston has a reputation for less-than-great nightlife for a few reasons. One is its longstanding rejection of happy hour. The other is the fact that our public transportation system grinds to a halt at 12:30 a.m., forcing revelers to cut their nights short or pay for pricey rides via Uber and Lyft. The burden also falls on those who work nights, and can be left without an inexpensive way to get home in the wee hours of the morning.

So there have been a number of attempts to fix this problem over the years, including the ill-fated Night Owl bus program that died in 2005, and a recent pilot program that saw trains run late on weekend nights. That last trial failed in February of 2016 after T officials found the trains were ridden by too few people to justify the cost. A group of transit activists later that year cooked up a bus-based replacement, dubbed NightBus. The T also once considered a pitch for late-night service from Bridj, the app-driven private bus company that is now defunct.

The T polled riders late last year about their late-night travel habits, and whether they would use such a service. Out of the 26,000 who responded, nearly all of them said they wanted late-night hours extended.