Overnight bus service fills the transit gap in service to provide job access to late and early shift workers. Many are transit dependent.
Boston is a world-class city that never stops working; neither should its transit network.
2017 October 31 — The FMCB yesterday agreed to advance the Overnight Transit Service pilot program sponsored by TransitMatters, Boston, Revere, Chelsea, Cambridge and Somerville. The service, called NightBus, is structured to provide transit service to the nearly 50 thousand workers who leave jobs between 1am and 4 am.
The FMCB decided to delay final approval of the pilot to determine how to implement Nightbus in the most cost-effective manner.
The options that will be considered include:
Private Operators servicing the route via a RFP.
Utilizing MassPort "Sunrise Service & Longwood Medical Area shuttles to service the routes in the early morning hours.
Seeing if private operators could utilize shorter buses to reduce the cost of operation.
Working with Carmen's Union to utilize part time employees to service the route at a reduced cost.
The Chair of the FMCB also set a target date of July 2018 (FY19) for it to be implemented.
TransitMatters is committed to seeing NightBus through to implementation. Nightbus is on the Horizon!
2017 October 30 — The FMCB will vote on the overnight portion of NightBus! We need you to speak out in support! Endorse the Project below, ask your elected officials to speak at the meeting in support, speak in support at the meeting and watch the livestream!
2017 July 31 — The FMCB saw a presentation on the pilot proposal sponsored by the Cities of Boston, Cambridge and Somerville and Transitmatters. During the Meeting the Board decided to split our pilot proposal into two alternatives, one for peak overnight service and one for early morning service. Our Pilot Proposal along with Data compiled by the MBTA demonstrated a clear demand for overnight service. Earlier this year the MBTA put out a RFI for overnight service, in which they received no suitable responses. MBTA staff has asked the board to decide on the next steps for overnight service, either a relaxed RFP for private operators or an MBTA run service. The Board also heard public comment and statements of support from:
- Barr Foundation
- Massachusetts Restaurant Association
- Alliance for Business Leadership
- Transportation for Massachusetts
- Conservation Law Foundation
- State Representative Adrian Madaro
- Boston City Council Candidate Corey Dianopolis
While we knew to expect no final resolution from the meeting today we do expect a vote on early morning service and further clarification on peak overnight service at the August 14th FMCB meeting. Please support the proposal by attending the meeting on August 14th 2017, asking your government officials to publicly support overnight service, writing a letter of support and submitting it to the FMCB. We look forward to continuing our collaboration with the MBTA to advocate for equitable, reliable, overnight transit for all of us.
- October 30 2017 - The FMCB will vote on the overnight portion of the NightBus Proposal
August 14 2017 - The FMCB approves the extending early morning bus routes as a portion of NightBus!
- July 31 2017 — The FMCB is shown the pilot proposal sponsored by the Cities of Boston, Cambridge and Somerville and Transitmatters.
- September 2016 — MBTA FMCB directed staff to survey for demand/interest in overnight transit service
- October 2016 — We met regularly with MBTA, City of Boston, City of Cambridge staff to draft the survey questions
- Nov-Dec 2016 — MBTA, City of Boston, City of Cambridge, and TransitMatters volunteers distributed and shared the survey; City of Boston and Cambridge also worked to survey employers and collect other sources of information about existing overnight travel in the region
- January 2017 — MBTA data team processed survey results and data from other sources to paint a picture of overnight travel needs
- Late February 2017 — MBTA adopted a transit pilot proposal policy. Survey results and data were presented to the MBTA FMCB.
- March - July 2017 — We worked regularly with the MBTA and the cities of Boston, Cambridge and Somerville to draft a pilot proposal for Overnight Service.
- July 31st, 2017 — The Cities of Boston, Cambridge and Somerville, and Transitmatters present our pilot proposal to the MBTA FMCB
MBTA staff presented an analysis of the overnight service demand survey and additional data on Monday, 06th February 2017.
MBTA staff presented our plan to the Fiscal Management and Control Board on Monday, 26th September 2016.
At the FMCB Meeting, some of our local and state reps, our allies, and our neighbours spoke in support of our plan.
The MBTA Fiscal Management and Control Board hear a presentation and discuss the future of our plan.
Our thoughts on the progress made in the FMCB meeting.
T details Foxborough, overnight pilots
Natasha Ishak | Commonwealth Magazine
Could the MBTA run overnight bus routes? Some advocates say yes.
Nicole Dungca | Boston Globe
Hey, MBTA: take this hint on overnight service
Dante Ramos | Boston Globe
Advocates push T to restore late-night service
Jack Sullivan | Commonwealth Magazine
MBTA Leadership Eyes Collaboration with Boston on Night Bus
Michael Norton | State House News Service | WGBH
Late-Night on the MBTA Is Dead. Can NightBus Resurrect It?
Spencer Buell | Boston Magazine
MBTA dithering on late night service
Matthew Robare | Urban Liberty
The MBTA Wants to Know if You Want Late-Night Bus Service
Spencer Buell | Boston Magazine
MBTA Survey to Measure Demand for Regional Overnight Bus Service
MBTA Press Release
MBTA survey aims to clarify demand for late night bus service
WFXT Fox 25 Boston
What is NightBus?
When we saw the writing on the wall for Late Night service, we started working on a way to make overnight transit service a reality. In March of this year, we announced our vision of overnight bus service (more details here - our Commonwealth Magazine article here).
Shortly after, the MBTA FMCB reviewed our proposal. We have been working with the T ever since on what service would look like and more accurate cost estimates. The numbers we arrived at are in the ballpark of our estimates of how much it costs the T to shut down every night (the T has contested our estimate and Board Member Jim Aloisi responded).
Our latest plan establishes a network of buses that form a backbone of transit for our service industry workers and increasing 'round the clock activity in Greater Boston.
Designed for Low-Income Workers
- Primary users: airport, hospital, office, restaurant customers & employees
- All shifts accessible; many 5AM shifts
- Service within 1 mile of most dense areas
Useful, Easy to Operate, Cost Effective
- Meaningful service at low cost
- Efficient coverage with only 10-15 buses
- Timed connections at Copley Sq
- Complements existing early bird trips
Measurable & Expandable
- Phased service plan for future growth (ex. Lynn, Quincy)
- Easy to add routes, increase frequency
- Peer cities run every 30 minutes all night
Daily: 500-1,000* Annual: ~420,000
💵 NET COST
$3.5M per year According to MBTA Service Planning
✅ NEXT STEPS
- FMCB Approval
Please show your support for overnight bus by endorsing our plan below!Endorse
The City of Boston will begin replacement of the Charlestown Bridge, also known as the North Washington Street Bridge. Work will start in 2016 and go for approximately 2.5 years.
The new bridge will feature wider sidewalks, bicycle tracks separated from vehicle traffic, but the key feature that's missing is dedicated bus lanes for the 20,000 commuters who ride the 92, 93, 111, 426 and 428 across this bridge amidst traffic every day.
This is an opportunity to dramatically improve bus service between Boston, Charlestown, Chelsea and Lynn. The current conditions force thousands of bus riders to sit in traffic and delay MBTA buses which could be used to increase service.
- MBTA routes 92, 93, 111, 426 and 428 carry at least 40% of all weekday bridge users despite the poor service quality and lack of priority. Routes 93 and 111 carry the majority of passengers across the bridge; these serve significant low-income and minority communities.
- Buses carry over 20,000 passengers per day across the bridge, 12,000 of which are carried by the 111 bus alone. Its primary service area, the City of Chelsea, is an environmental justice community with significant low-income and immigrant populations as well as employment centers, yet Chelsea has no frequent rapid transit link to the rest of the region.
- 66 buses per hour/more than one bus per minute travel over the bridge during peak periods the bridge, which means there is always a bus on the bridge.
- Partners Healthcare shuttle buses operate between the Charlestown Navy Yard and North Station for time-critical connections with infrequent Commuter Rail trains.
- Buses can be stuck in traffic for up to 30 minutes at peak times, when ridership is highest. The MBTA has no vehicles with which to increase service in part because its buses spend so much time in traffic when they are most needed.
- Traffic queues on Chelsea St can be as long as one mile, heavily impacting Route 93 and Partners Healthcare shuttle bus operations as well as several delivery businesses located along Terminal St, with delays upward of 30 minutes. Most of this traffic appears to originate in the east end of the Navy Yard.
- A single full bus carries more people than two lanes of car traffic backed up across the bridge.
What We Can Do About It
- Fast and reliable service is critical for an effective network that allows unlimited access and mobility throughout the city, and can attract and retain riders.
- Industry best practices recommend exclusive bus lanes where one-way bus volumes exceed 20 buses per hour.
- MassDOT Mode Shift and Greenhouse Gas Reduction Goals require the prioritization of buses on critical corridors. A recent MassPIRG study shows even a one percent decrease in car use yields significant benefits for society.
- If buses were a viable alternative to car travel by bypassing stopped traffic, many car drivers would switch to buses, thereby reducing traffic congestion
- Exclusive bus lanes on the bridge and the Chelsea Street approach would make Route 93 and Partners Healthcare shuttles fast and reliable and could remove many of these cars from the road by encouraging a car-free commute.
What We Recommend
As a concerned rider and one of 20,000 daily bus riders suffering from slow, unreliable service, tell MassDOT and the City of Boston that you want:
- Exclusive Bus Lanes on the bridge in both directions, including both approaches and descents, for a faster bus ride when the bridge is complete
- Signal Priority for Buses at both ends of the bridge, including access to/from the Tobin Bridge
- Dedicated Enforcement and Physical Barriers to prevent unauthorized access to bus lanes
All Practical Efforts to Facilitate Bus Priority During Construction including:
- One Reversing Bus Lane that provides priority in the rush-hour direction for a faster bus ride during construction
- Bus Lanes on Bridge Approaches
- 24/7 Access for Buses over the bridge during nightly closures
- Increased Commuter Rail Service between Chelsea and North Station as an alternative to using the bridge
Create Awareness Amongst the General Public About Transportation Mechanics, Economics, and Opportunities
First and foremost, our goal is to advocate through a better, more critical understanding of transit issues within the Commonwealth. Breaking apart issues into their components enables us to look deeper into challenges and benefits in a way that is accessible to the general public.
Provide Educaiton and Critical Analysis to Equip Citizens and Leaders to Make Smart Transportation Decisions and Investments
We aim to build institutional knowledge on transit within the Commonwealth to make it easier to understand transit projects, policies, and issues. Making these issues accessible to the general public and easily referenced enables more informed discourse.
Enable and Empower Grassroots Public Demand for Better Transportation Ideas and Investment Decisions
Our institutional knowledge is also important to advocacy. By building resources for advocacy, we make it easier to advocate for transit and encourage more informed discourse on the issues at hand.
TransitMatters is dedicated to improving transit in and around Boston by offering new perspectives, uniting transit advocates, educating riders and promoting a level of critical analysis normally absent from other media. We advocate for plans and policies that promote convenient and effective transportation for everyone.
Good transportation requires much more than funding and maintaining our existing system. Recent failures have made clear that high quality transit is the backbone of our entire region. Significant growth in population as well as rail and bus ridership must be accompanied by increased transit capacity and targeted expansion so we can move freely around the region.
Learn about our New Vision for Transit (https://transitmatters.squarespace.com/plan) in which we repair, improve and expand the MBTA system. Listen to TransitMatters co-founder Jeremy Mendelson explain how to fix the T last winter on WBUR's Radio Boston.
I was born and raised in the Greater Boston area. As a kid, I was interested in maps and for much of my childhood would actually draw them based on my memory from traveling. I have also always been fascinated by public transit and would beg my parents to take me into the city on the Green Line Riverside branch. Living in the Metro West region for most of my life, I frequently used the Framingham/Worcester commuter rail line after additional stations were constructed to serve the area.
After seeing how vulnerable the MBTA was during the tough winter of 2015, I began researching to understand myself what factors have led to the current situation of underinvestment in the system. Since I use the MBTA to get to work, I know how much of a lifeline transit serves for many things including employment, business, economic development and tourism. Most importantly, all of those needs are related or connected in some way to each other.
The bottom line is clear then: if the MBTA cannot operate properly during a time of need, then the entire Eastern Massachusetts region, as a whole, suffers as a result. Along with other young professionals, I enjoy adding my contribution to the ongoing discussion of how to make the MBTA function better and make Boston the world-class city that it truly is.
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