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Up All Night: Riding the Late Night T Service in Boston

March 28th marked the return of late night subway service in Boston. On Fridays and Saturdays bars will no longer have to have separate last calls for train service, and then later, alcohol. Overnight workers and airplane travelers will have more inexpensive ways to get to and from their destinations. Concertgoers, musicians, Sox fans, and many other demographics will be able to stay out longer and get home easier. Most importantly, the additional late night trains should curb the amount of drunk drivers trying to get home, making the city safer for everyone.DanMeade_2836_Kenmore.summ

The extra ninety minutes of service also mean that more areas of metro Boston can be visited at night. To mark the occasion, I stayed out all night each night this weekend, riding all five T lines to and through 105 of the system’s stops. Here’s what I found:

Friday

Dan Meade: Orange Line

8:17 PM – Orange Line is full as it moves through Downtown Crossing with a mix of townies, workers, hipsters, debutantes, city kids, and immigrants. Good representation of the city.

8:38 PM – “You’re in the hood, I know you’re scared.” – Woman leading a group of teens as they exit the Orange Line at Forest Hills. It’s a nice way to be welcomed back to Jamaica Plain for the first time in two years.

9:10 PM ­­– “I haven’t ridden the T in years, but I should. Drivin’ a car is fuckin’ expensive!” – Man at the Midway Cafe after I told him I would be riding the T all night.

10:20 PM Run into a group of people throwing a “Boston T Party” in honor of the late night service. Their plan is to hit a bar along each of the four main T lines. It’s pretty much what the Future Boston Alliance called for everyone to do back when the late night service was first announced: prove that the extended service is necessary by grabbing all your friends and staying out all night along the T.

10:25 PM – The itinerary of the “Boston T Party” is as follows: First stop, Eddie C’s in Maverick (Blue Line). Second stop, the Midway in JP (Orange Line). Third stop, the Sunset Grill & Tap in Allston (Green Line). Fourth stop, Charlie’s Kitchen in Harvard (Red Line).

Dan Meade: Green Line Driveby

11:05 PM – I join the “Boston T Party.” We drive out to Allston.

11:26 PM – First vomit sighting of the night, outside the White Horse Tavern in Allston.

1:00 AM – 66 Bus to Harvard and Charlie’s Kitchen. The “Boston T Party” is very fun, but I wonder if I’m missing out on anything on the T for which the party is named.

Dan Meade: Charlie's Cheers

1:45 AM – Closing out Charlie’s. The outdoor fire pit has come in handy as the night has gotten colder.

2:25 AM – Back on the T. The outbound Red Line platform at Harvard is sparsely populated, with only a few people waiting… just as they would during any other non-peak hour of service.

Dan Meade: Red Line Tricks: Flip

2:31 AM – On the Red Line, the “Boston T Party” runs into another crew celebrating the late night service. A light gymnastics competition ensues.

Dan Meade: Red Line Tricks: X

3:00 AM and after — The “Boston T Party” ends with finger sandwiches and Long Island Iced Tea served in tea cups at a house party (the name has been a double entendre all along!). With the T now closed, the party ends in a flotilla of Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar cars. The Partiers praise these new app-cabs for providing more service, for going to more parts of metro Boston, and for being cheaper than medallion-cabs. It all seems fitting for a weekend based on celebrating expanded travel options.

Saturday

11:00 AM – Reports on other late night T riders have come in. The first night seems to have been a success with plenty of people taking advantage of it.

8:50 PM – Abort my plan to get a drink at Renzo’s, the bar/pizza parlor/music venue near Wonderland, the terminus of the Blue Line. Something about walking along the Revere shore alone, in the dark, and in the rain is triggering a mental warning about safety and “smart choices.”

9:05 PM — Wood Island. The train stops. The doors open. All I see or hear is darkness and rain. Then a large African American gentleman in a wet black jacket and wet black jeans enters the doorway, pauses for a moment, and seems to look right at me from the deep recesses under his hood. Go ahead. Grab your camera. Try it punk.

I don’t. He sits. The train moves on.

Dan Meade: Government Center Construction

10:16 PM – The Government Center construction has begun.

Dan Meade: Midnight Snack

10:24 PMMidnight Snack are one of the better subway acts I’ve heard in a while. People actually applaud for them. I hope they will still be at Park Street when I return in a few hours.

10:39 PM – BU kids are already saying “Goodnight, get home safe” to each other. There may not be much to see on this B Line trip to BC tonight.

Dan Meade: Too Late Came Too Early

11:00 PM – I catch an inbound B Line at Chiswick Road. Maybe this guy should have caught an earlier train.

Dan Meade: Last Call at Kenmore?

12:31 PM – Normal “last call” at Kenmore is in four minutes. Two inbound Green Line trains sit at the platform, waiting for passengers. No other trains are listed on the boards. An air of “are these really the last trains?” hangs heavy in the station air. People jump onto the trains just to be safe.

Dan Meade: A Swing After a Miss

12:52 AM – A man runs down the South Station steps only to find an inbound Red Train pulling out of the station. He slams his fists against the moving train in a mix of anger and frustration. It is unknown if he realizes another train will come for him shortly.

12:59 PM – The SL1 to Logan has been empty so far, as has every Silver Line station before the airport. Maybe it’s too early for the last round of people, maybe the rain has kept people inside. This doesn’t auger well for keeping the expanded service, and I feel bad for the driver who must be lonely driving an empty trackless trolley in a loop at this hour

1:20 AM – The SL1 gets its first passengers from Terminal E! Two other people will join this trackless trolley before it returns to South Station.

1:51 AM – Conversation at Park Street:

Man: Hey, let me ask you, which Green Line do I have to get to the D line?
Me: The D Line? The D Line. It’s right… there, to the right.
Man: Awright, thanks.

Nothing much else happens on the outbound Green platform. People simply pass in and pass out of trains, slightly tipsy, but without incident.

2:02 AM – Transit cops remove a backpack from a Red Line train to Ashmont at Park Street, holding up service a few minutes. The forty or so people on the platforms don’t seem to notice or care, they just wait for the next trains and take selfies. Late night T service has already become ingrained.

2:11 AM – The outbound Orange Line platform at Downtown Crossing is deserted save for a stumbling man in the distance. No train schedules are displayed on the board.

2:13 AM – The next train to Oak Grove, the last train to Oak Grove, will arrive in 16 minutes.

Dan Meade: Last Train at DTX

2:46 AM – The conductor announces, “We’re still waiting on the Red and Green Lines. There is no set time for departure.” This is the only kink in the system all night, and while the now-fifteen minute wait is annoying, I know I would appreciate it if I were the one needing the connection.

2:56 AM – The train leaves DTX. A minute later the whole car rejoices when the Loud And Drunk Kids Yelling About Free Fritos get off at State Street. The woman across from me resumes pleading with her male friends to stay at her place for a “sleepover” rather than drive back to their homes beyond Malden.

After 3:00 AM – The MBTA’s late night service has gotten me home, after allowing me to traipse all over the city. Did I see any “stories” while on the trains? Not really, but that was a good thing. No one went wild, no one over-indulged, and no one got hurt (at least that I saw). Everyone just rode the trains later than normal, allowing them to stay out longer and giving them the options to spend more money and to visit more places. In short, the later T service has made it possible to do more things along every stop on each of its routes.

And as soon as I get some sleep, I’ll start planning where I might go next weekend.

— Dan Meade
Nights on the T: March 28-29, 2014
Published: March 30, 2014

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