Public transit agencies face a difficult choice when trying to figure out what time they want service to shut down for the night. On the one hand, there’s a lot to be gained from having your buses and subways running until the early morning hours: It allows workers who do their jobs at night a cheap way to get home, it helps invigorate your nightlife scene and it helps cut down on drunk driving incidents.
At the same time, it can be expensive to pull this off if there isn’t the customer demand to support it. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), which manages the bus and subway system in Boston, has weighed these issues and decided it is worth giving late night weekend service a try.
Starting March 28, subways and the most popular bus routes will run until 3 a.m. on weekends. The city will try these extended hours out as a year-long pilot program to determine if ridership can help offset the $20 million cost.
Boston tried a similar system from 2001 to 2005, but the program was unsuccessful in attracting enough riders. However, transit officials are hoping that the new pilot will work because people can now use smartphones to plan their trips, as Boston’s buses are equipped with GPS tracking systems.
This is certainly a shrewd move on Boston’s part: Fleet management systems make it easier to route buses to the right locations and provide backup in the event of break downs. They also help conserve fuel, thus keeping down the cost of the program.
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