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Nicole Dungca | Starts & Stops

Weekend T riders face earlier trip home, but it could be worse

A mostly-empty Green Line car in service late on a recent Friday night.Kieran Kesner for The Boston Globe

When the state Department of Transportation board last week agreed to continue weekend late-night service by the MBTA but reduced the frequency of buses and subway trains, at least one T patron called it “mediocre news.”

Andy Monat is a close T watcher who runs a website, www.mbtainfo.com, that helps riders track subway and bus arrivals. He said gradual cuts to service doomed the T’s last foray into late-night service in 2005, and he doesn’t want history to repeat itself.

“When a service gets infrequent enough, it starts to become so inconvenient that people stop using it as much,” Monat said.


The T began a trial program in March 2014 that extended service by 90 minutes on weekends. Officials have recently expressed concerns that the service could be too expensive to sustain itself. But instead of eliminating it, officials last week opted to scale it back.

Under a reduced schedule that starts June 27, five of the 15 late-night bus routes will be axed, and the last subway trains on Friday and Saturday will leave the downtown stations around 2 a.m., instead of 2:30. Also, patrons will have longer waits between rides.

T officials say they are doing their best to keep the popular service. They presented figures that show the number of riders dropping off sharply after 2 a.m. They also dropped the bus routes that were the least used.

And though the waits will be longer, they won’t be that much longer.

For example, at Red Line stations between Alewife and JFK/UMass, trains run every seven or eight minutes after 12:30 a.m. Under the reduced schedule, those trains will run every 11 minutes.

For travelers on the Braintree or Ashmont branches of the Red Line, the trains will run every 22 minutes, instead of every 15 minutes.


Monat admits that longer waits are better than no service at all. “Fifteen minutes isn’t great and 22 is kinda lousy, but it could be worse,” he said.

Others are less worried about the service cuts. Malia Lazu, with the Future Boston Alliance, said that the T could have ended the extended hours altogether, so it’s a good sign.

“It’s much easier to expand something than it is to get restarted,” she said.

Transit report lauds T, but says its fares are too low

Good news, Boston: A new report says our transit system isn’t that bad.

Last week, the Eno Center for Transportation released a study on the operations of transit systems across the country. And in what may come as a surprise to local commuters who had a difficult experience this winter, Boston got relatively high marks.

Specifically, the nonpartisan organization wanted to explore how various transit agencies in a state were organized, how they worked and planned projects together, and how they were funded.

Its report found that because the T is under the state Department of Transportation and it basically dwarfs all other local transit agencies, the state has a much bigger stake in the financial well-being of the system, compared with other places across the country.

According to the report, that’s a pretty good deal. Though Massachusetts has saddled the MBTA with debt, the report said, the state has also consistently bailed out the system.

Riders also benefit from this consolidation. “Of all the case studies included in this report, Boston has one of the better-organized and cohesive transit systems from a rider perspective: It has low fares, is relatively seamless, and provides a practical means for getting around the region,” the report said.


But the Eno Center also pointed out shortcomings: State control has taken away power from the municipalities that benefit from the T, and has produced a system “where gubernatorial priorities may take precedence over regional priorities,” the report said.

And since the governor is ultimately responsible, the report said, there’s always pressure to keep fares low. As a result, the budget grows and the percentage that fare revenue contributes to it shrinks.

In addition, the report found that the 175 cities and towns that are served by the T contribute about $156 million, or not quite 9 percent of its annual budget, to the agency’s operations. Nearly every other transit system studied relies more on local funding than the T. To that end, the report says both member communities and riders should pay more to cover the T’s costs.

A fare increase may come sooner rather than later. A recent panel appointed by Governor Charlie Baker also found that the T offers some of the lowest fares in the country, and recommended that the Legislature abolish a cap on how high the T can raise its fares every two years.

Nicole Dungca can be reached at nicole.dungca@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ndungca.