T trains retire too early, start too late

The following appeared in the Sunday Boston Globe. (1/14) It was written by Norwell resident John Stilgoe who is the Orchard Professor in the History of Landscape at Harvard University.

Late-night MBTA commuter trains offer long-term benefits to municipalities far south of Boston. While a handful of trackside abutters always decry the momentary noise of any passing train, night trains benefit the entire regional population. Modern times demand a return to older schedules, and even older transport-system thinking.

Boston goes to bed early. Proper Bostonians expect the MBTA bus and subway operation to shut down around 12:30 a.m. Visitors from New York and European cities chuckle at the small-town, roll-up-the-sidewalks mentality. As large corporations move away from Boston, the city begins to lose its big-city reputation, and the T’s early shutdown doesn’t help the Hub’s image problem to visitors.

Long before the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s forerunner whose fare increase produced the song about Charlie who never returned) acquired the properties of the privately owned Boston Elevated Railway Co., so-called Night Owl streetcars and buses prowled Boston streets. Late-night service ran regularly, although not frequently, and enabled factory employees and other night-shift workers to get to work and repairmen to move from one job to another without hiring cabs. It brought night club revelers home safely, keeping them from driving automobiles. Perhaps most importantly, Night Owl service let people get to South Station for very-early-morning trains and get home from trains arriving late at night. While trains tended to arrive on time, even in bad weather, Night Owl service meant much to passengers debarking New England Steamship Co. coastal vessels delayed by fog.

In the past few years, the MBTA experimented with Night Owl buses rolling along sleeping subway routes, but the infrequent service stopped at 2:30 a.m. and proved so expensive to operate that the T ended it in 2005. Boston ranks last in national transit-authority hours-of-service surveys, and many tourists jeer at a part-time transit authority determined to raise fares.

for the rest of the article please click here.


1 Comment

Filed under Commuter Rail, MBTA, Subway, T history, T's future

One response to “T trains retire too early, start too late

  1. Anonymous

    I can understand not running the subway all night every night. But it’s ridiculous that there are no buses after about 1 AM.

    The recent Night Owl service was too inflexible to succeed. Instead of running a copfest at Government Center with buses attempting to duplicate every subway line, including lightly-used ones, the T should look into running a few busy bus routes a little bit later.

    The last trips of the night on the 1, 39, 57, 77, 111, and other busy routes get decent ridership, so there’s no reason not to add some extra trips.

    It would help if the bus driver contract provision for double pay after 2 AM could be changed. If I were a union bus driver, I’d rather have time-and-a-half pay after 2 on bus trips that actually exist, instead of no service after 2 because double pay makes it too expensive to run.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s