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Starts & Stops

Back Bay to Logan with less hassle

The Back Bay Logan Express service shuttles passengers from Copley and the Hynes Convention Center to the airport.

Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff

The Back Bay Logan Express service shuttles passengers from Copley and the Hynes Convention Center to the airport.

In case you missed it, the new Back Bay Logan Express service started up at the beginning of this month, shuttling people from outside the Hynes Convention Center and Copley Station to the airport.

Just in the nick of time: Government Center, the transfer point between the Green and Blue lines, was closed last month — making it much more difficult for residents on the Green Line to access Airport Station. And last month, Logan officials announced that they will raise parking rates by $2 per day starting in July.

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The new seven-days-per-week shuttle service is part of a two-year experiment.

Buses stop at both Back Bay pick-up locations every 20 minutes, starting at 5 a.m and continuing until 9 p.m. The first pick-up at Logan Airport is at 6 a.m. and continues until 10 p.m. If you have a valid T pass, the trip is free; otherwise, it’s $5, payable with credit or debit card.

And there’s another new option for airport-goers — especially those traveling with families and saddled with large loads of luggage.

Uber, the company that allows commuters to book a ride using their mobile phones, is starting a new service this week in Boston and Chicago that allows customers to request extra-large vehicles with the capacity to fit six passengers.

Called UberXL, it lets people book a ride with drivers who mostly have never worked as chauffeurs or taxi drivers and who pick up passengers in their own minivans or SUVS — an option more affordable than the luxury black sport utility vehicles and professional drivers that come with a ride from UberSUV.

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“There was a natural fit in the market for a lower-cost option that fits up to six passengers,” said Meghan Joyce, general manager of Uber Boston.

Uber, a startup founded in 2009, enables people to request a ride with a few taps on their smartphones. It has been controversial since its inception, as detractors argue it creates a disadvantage for taxi drivers and does not include enough safeguards and insurance standards.

Originally, the service allowed customers to request a registered livery vehicle, such as a Lincoln Town Car or a higher-capacity luxury sedan; more recently, the company has offered a more affordable option called UberX, which connects users with drivers willing to offer rides in their own personal vehicles.

Now, UberXL may strike a middle ground: helping commuters get the benefits of the cost-saving UberX and still request a driver whose personal car is a high-capacity vehicle. Joyce said she anticipates UberXL will be useful for families headed to the airport with luggage, as well as student groups in need of transportation for volunteer trips or large groups of friends looking to save money by squashing into a larger vehicle.

Boston and Chicago are the first two cities to experiment with the new service. The larger vehicles will cost about 40 percent more than vehicles reserved through UberX.

Several thousand Uber drivers are registered in the Boston area, and Joyce said she expects the debut of the UberXL service to attract more to sign on with the program. She imagined a burgeoning demographic of new drivers: parents with large, family-toting minivans or SUVs who may not have full-time jobs.

A natural fit, perhaps, for soccer moms and hockey dads already accustomed to spending a large portion of their days serving as chauffeurs.

“There’s an increasing number of parents who have minivans and, during the daytime hours, are driving kids to and from school, to sports, dance rehearsal,” Joyce said. “They have found that using Uber software allows them to have a really interesting income opportunity to help supplement their finances.”

No need for a dummy

Readers may have seen the news last week of an arrest made by State Police close to the Braintree split: A 32-year-old driver from Holbrook attempted to use a dummy — specifically, a bald mannequin head with glued-on eyelashes and a 5 o’clock shadow — to cheat the HOV lane on the northbound side of Interstate 93.

Unsurprisingly, he was busted and slapped with a $50 fine and the knowledge that his ill-advised move had become fodder for public ridicule.

The next day, reader Anne Farrington wrote to point out that the public shaming could have been a good opportunity to let people know about how they can use the HOV lane for their morning commute — without a counterfeit co-passenger.

Even if you don’t know anyone at your office willing to carpool, you can connect with other professionals who live and work close to you by checking out MassRides, the Department of Transportation’s commuter-aid website, at commute.com.

Even better: The state is currently working with vRide, a company that manages commuter vanpool subsidy programs, which could provide up to $600 per month to defray the cost of leasing a large vehicle that would bring employees to and from work with the help of a volunteer driver.

Contract negotiations are still pending, but vRide officials are hoping this subsidy program will be up and running soon.


Martine Powers can be reached at martine.powers@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @martinepowers.

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