It’s been about six weeks since the MBTA rolled out a one-year pilot program testing the success of late-night service hours on the weekend, and although the night life community is waiting for more time to pass before calling it a hit, many local bars and restaurants are happy with results thus far.
“We need a longer period to really assess the total impact, but I’d say it’s gone some what as expected from our stand point,” said Bob Luz, president of the Mass Restaurant Association.
T officials said 72,057 people traveled on MBTA subways during late-night weekend hours in the first month of the program, which launched in March 28.
As a likely result the city’s hospitality industry has seen an increase in sales “to some degree,” according to Luz.
“Specifically, what they're saying is it seems as if patrons are just staying out a little bit later because they have an alternative way to get around.
We’ve seen a year over year increases, and we lapped out the marathon effect, but when we line up the 7-week period some of them are seeing increases in sales,” said Luz. “It’s too soon to really call it a home run but it’s certainly meeting employers needs.”
Faneuil Hall, Copley Square, Kenmore and the South End are all areas with noticeable increases, Luz said.
Before the launch of the pilot program, the association advocated for extended MBTA hours on behalf of employees who leave work after midnight and were faced with no easy transportation options to get home.
The late-night service has proved to be a money saver for restaurants, according to Luz, as employers aren’t paying for as many cab rides for workers. Another unexpected bonus - restaurants are being kept cleaner.
“Employees were rushing to get out of there to catch the last train, and it turns out they may have been cutting corners on cleaning. Now they no longer have that problem. They’re staying there about 30 minutes longer,” he said.
The later service also appears to be having an unexpected impact on the local cab industry.
Metro Cab has seen an increase of about 25 percent in late-night taxi rides, according to General Manager Stephen Sullivan.
“It’s increased business. I wasn’t expecting it either,” said Sullivan, who keeps hourly statistics on passenger trips.
“Now, with the extended hours, we’re getting about 160 calls per hour after 2 a.m., whereas before we’d usually see about 55 hourly calls,” Sullivan said, speculating that cabs may be picking up stragglers who were lured out with the intention of taking the T home, but opted for the convenience of a taxi instead.
“We thought maybe there’d be a decrease in business because people would take the trains, but a lot of people may say they’ll take the T but when the time comes they’ll call a cab. Some people don’t want to bother with public transportation,” Sullivan said, adding that he welcomes a permanent late-night program.
“Whoever came up with it should be given credit. The new mayor okaying it was tremendous. I believe it’s a win-win situation for everyone involved,” Sullivan said.
It’s hard to know whether the number of late-night partiers will climb into the summer, Luz said, as the city’s demographic shifts.
“We lose a lot of students who typically might be out late at night, and fill it in with a younger generation that comes home as well,” said Luz. “Summer in the city is a very busy part of the season with tourists. We think it'll be a bigger win in the summer.”