Late-night bus service could make another comeback, as the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority prepares to solicit proposals from outside transportation companies.
Early last year, the MBTA’s fiscal and management control board nixed late-night subway and bus rides because of concerns over its $14 million annual cost. But on Monday, after a push from transit advocates and ride-for-hire firms to bring back late-night bus service in some form, the board gave the go-ahead for MBTA staff to ask these companies for potential overnight schedules.
Companies will need to focus on getting late-night workers home, especially along busy corridors such as Back Bay to East Boston, board members said.
“For me, personally, the priority is really [travel to] employment and educational opportunities,” said board member Monica Tibbits-Nutt. “That’s my focus. As far as whether or not people can get to social events at night, that would be fantastic, but I feel like dealing with those two main populations first should be the priority.”
Late-night hours had extended service on all subway lines and some bus lines to 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturday. Transit service now runs from about 5 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.
But some have been fighting to bring late hours back for select bus routes or on-demand services and even proposing that the T offer some sort of service 24 hours a day. Transit Matters, an advocacy group, has suggested that the MBTA operate a much less expensive service that would run overnight buses every 75 minutes. Bridj, an on-demand shuttle service, and Lyft, the popular ride-for-hire firms, have also submitted proposals to provide their services to MBTA customers with subsidies.
The MBTA also collected about 7,000 responses to a survey on later buses, said Laurel Paget-Seekins, the MBTA’s director of strategic initiatives. The survey showed there is demand for late-night service, but the preferred times vary.
Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said state officials hope the bid process can be expedited.
Many would welcome the return of late-night service, proponents said. Adrian C. Madaro, a state representative whose district includes East Boston, told the board that such service is a matter of fairness.
“East Boston residents who work in any other neighborhood of Boston are unable to bike or walk through the Sumner or Ted Williams Tunnels when the T is out of service,” he said. “Nor can they swim home across the harbor. When my constituents cannot get home after work via public transportation, they are forced to rely on expensive, luxury transportation methods like taxis or livery services.”
The board also approved a five-year, $49 million contract for the Tennessee-based Republic Parking System, replacing the embattled LAZ Parking.
LAZ had long contracted with the MBTA, but in May, transit officials said authorities were investigating missing parking payments.
Brian Shortsleeve, the MBTA’s acting general manager, said the agency had been considering rebidding the parking contract before concerns about the missing payments.Nicole Dungca can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.