MBTA boosts early-morning buses, adds Foxborough commuter rail service
Struggling to figure out overnight transit service, the MBTA has come up with a modest first step.
The agency’s board decided Monday to begin service earlier in the morning on 10 popular bus routes, with some beginning their first rides at 4 a.m. The additional service will commence as a one-year pilot program in spring, 2018.
However, on late-night service, the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board instructed agency planners to keep looking for a successor to the extended weekend subway service that was ended in March, 2016 because of high costs and low ridership.
The extended service grew out of lobbying from the activist group Transit Matters to find a lower-cost way to provide overnight service using buses to help off-peak workers get to and from work.
James Aloisi, a Transit Matters member and former state transportation secretary, was pleased at the addition of early-morning bus routes, but said the late-night proposal must also be approved for overnight workers to benefit.
“Our mission from the get-go was to have overnight transit service,” he said. “It’s a victory to have service start at 4 a.m., but that’s not overnight transit service.”
The one-year pilot can be extended based on how it performs. Beginning next April, the T will add a combined 67 weekly bus runs to the 10 routes, with some starting as early as 4 a.m.
By beefing up service on these routes — which includes routes in Salem, Waltham, and Hyde Park — the T anticipates about 1,200 new daily passengers, and 700 existing passengers who would hop on earlier buses. The service will be mostly subsidized — annual operating costs would be nearly $1.1 million while the MBTA estimates it will receive only about $62,000 in revenue.
Meanwhile, the board directed MBTA staff to work with Transit Matters and Boston city officials on a plan for seven-days-a-week late-night service.
The board on Monday also approved a one-year pilot service on the commuter rail to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. Partially subsidized by the Kraft Group, which owns the stadium and the New England Patriots, the service would launch in spring 2019.
The Foxborough proposal had drawn opposition along the Fairmount Line, where riders worried that extending the train service along their tracks to Foxborough increased the risk of delay.
Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack argued the pilot could help boost ridership and increase parking options along the commuter rail. As part of the Foxborough service, the Krafts will provide 500 parking spaces at the stadium for T commuters.