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2:30 A.M. MBTA Service: An idea whose time has come again.

June 27, 2017 1 comment

I propose restoring Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority(MBTA) late night service(LNS) until 2:30 A.M. on Friday, Saturday and the evenings before legal holidays.

  From March of 2014 until March of 2016 the MBTA offered LNS carrying 16,000 riders nightly for its first year before declining to 13,000 riders by February, 2016 (1)

  I propose doubling the late-night subway and grade level train fare to $4.20 from the $2.10 charged on stored value cards.  (Paying by the trip is $2.40)

  This would defray some of the cost of LNS and enable the return of this economically justifiable, convenient and safe means of travel.

  Casual phrases such as ‘world class city’ are often bandied about when Boston is spoken of.  Yet, the last outbound trains from Park St run at 12:54 A.M.

  The benefits of restoring LNS MBTA service would be numerous.

  Hospital and hotel workers work a variety of shifts.  As Boston proper has gentrified many of these working folks cannot afford to live within walking distance of their jobs.

  Furthermore even as taxis have been supplemented by Uber, Lyft and a variety of car services transportation expenses can be a significant part of a working person’s take-home income.

  Even at the UberPool-Boston rate of $6-8, (2), from Massachusetts General Hospital to Harvard and Comm. Ave(s) in Allston this prorates to about $660, $6 x 110 weekend trips=$660 annually for a late-night employee working weekends at $12/hr.  This amounts to about a week’s take-home pay.  Considering the large number of hospital and hotel staff working after 1 A.M. this has a considerable effect upon workers and employers.

Have mercy!

 LNS service would benefit already existing retail outlets.  24 hour super markets such as Star Market at 53 Huntington Ave. and the Star market at 33 Kilmaronock St. would gain a clientele for whom late night grocery shopping is a practical necessity and more economical than a convenience store.

  The LNS which ended in March of 2016 was not the first foray of the MBTA into extended hours.  From 2001 until 2005 the Night Owl service offered bus service until 2:30 A.M.  However, the scattered stops and slow speed worked against the service’s popularity and the Night Owl was attracting a mere 600 riders on Friday, Saturday and nights before legal holidays before being cancelled in 2005.

  The LNS initiated in March of 2014 and cancelled March 18, 2016 carried 16,000 riders by train nightly for its first year before declining to 13,000 riders nightly by February, 2016.

 The cancellation decision was made by a 4-0 unanimous decision of the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board on January 25, 2016.  (1)

  Leaving aside the question(s) of whether applying and norming the subsidy cost(s) through the entire day(s) would be a valid statistical method, the MBTA nonetheless claims the net marginal cost of LNS is $14 million annually based on a fare of $2.10 per rider.

  My proposal is to increase the LNS fare to $4.20 and thus halve the net marginal cost.

  Assuming ridership remains the same, and I do know what they say about assume, the net marginal cost would sink to $7 million annually!

  What the MBTA has not acknowledged is that the increased business enabled by the LNS would create taxable income some of which could be earmarked towards reducing the MBTA’s chronic operating deficit.

  Boston is a challenging city to drive in even under optimal conditions.  Dark winter nights make this intrinsic challenge even more treacherous as snow and ice pile up.  This challenge is compounded exponentially when large numbers of folks exiting bars and clubs congregate on the sidewalks and streets.

  From 1993 to 1999 I worked at a variety of venues in the Theater District and witnessed departing guests hanging around the area until 3:30 A.M. while socializing, eating snacks and attempting to hail taxis.  The crowds milling about caused significant litter problems, interrupted traffic and ultimately endangered the safety of those hanging around.

  My current employer takes the provisions of MA Dram Shop Liability as established in 1983, (2), very seriously.

  However, even the best managed established establishments are not immune from “pre-gaming” and drug use by guests that leads to slow exits, littering and dangerous and endangered crowds after closing.

  During the lifespan of LNS from 2014 until its cancellation in 2016 my employer did not have this problem as the last Green Line from Kenmore Square departed outbound at 2;30 A.M. allowing sufficient time for the fifteen-minute walk from my employer to the Kenmore Square MBTA station. 

Management mentioned, on more than 1 occasion, that folks tended to leave in order to catch the last train.

  On February 17, 2017 I asked my Assistant Manager, A.M; about my proposal to restore LNS MBTA by charging a double fare.

S.G: So how has the discontinuation of late-night service affected us?

C.M: It has discouraged travel from our customers in Allston as they can’t afford a cab or even Uber or Lyft.  They would have to leave with folks that they don’t know and a lot of our people just won’t do that.

S.G: What do you think that comes to in dollars?

A.M: About 5-10%.  It’s not nothing over the course of a year.  When did it end anyway?

S.G: March 18th. of last year.

A.M: Close to a year, huh.  You know another thing is that there isn’t the parking around here that there was even a year ago and when the Sox start up again it’s like [the parking] at least $30 and that is tough for kids even though most of them don’t have cars.  We don’t really get the trusties, [students who are completely supported by their parents and have leased cars through the school year], our kids are just looking for a good time.

S.G: Do you think our crowd would pay for a double fare after 12:30 on Friday, Saturday and nights before legal holidays?

A.M:  That would be $4.20, right?

S.G: Yes.

A.M: I would [use the LNS service] if I were in school and lived in Allston.  You would keep the service running until a last departure from Kenmore at 2:30 like before?

S.G: Yes.

A.M: I think that it’s a good idea and would keep some drunks off the road.

  On Saturday, March 11, 2017 I decided to investigate my manager’s assertion regarding the slow departure of guests now that LNS was no longer available.  I left my security post with the permission of my supervisor at 1:45 A.M. as last call was being given.  I observed a dozen guests in front of the building which was surprising considering the 15 F weather.  After clearing the building at 2:30 A.M. I returned to the entrance of the building and found 30 folks smoking, eating pizza and looking for a hook-up.  Folks wandered into the active traffic flow attempting to flag the passenger filled cabs that veered to avoid hitting the remaining revelers.

  Smartphones were frantically employed as folks tried to reach Uber and Lyft but evidently the cold had prevailed over economic opportunity.

  At 2:45 A.M. I left work and there were still 6 guests eating pizza and smoking by the front of the building while discarding the crusts and butts on the sidewalk.

  This scene would not have occurred were the LNS still running.

  “Better safe than sorry,” is more than a cliche’, it is a sound operating principle which would be activated by the renewal of LNS even at double the fare.

  Additionally, lessened consumption of fossil fuel by drivers would have positive environmental effects.

  Enabling employment and entertainment, preserving public safety and environmental sustainability, MBTA LNS at a double fare is an idea whose time has come…again!

ALL ABOARD!

WORKS CITED

1) uberPOOL…Share the ride, split the cost.  Page 1, Web, 6 March, 2017

https://get.uber.com/p/uberpool-Boston

2) Dungca, Nicole.  “MBTA to end late-night service by mid-March.”  Boston Globe, 29 Feb, 2016.  Web. 3 March, 2017

https;//ww.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/02/…late-night-service-end-march…/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michio Kushi: July 17,1926-December 28, 2014

January 16, 2015 Leave a comment

Michio Kushi passed on 12/28/2014 from pancreatic cancer. 

The 1st. Unitarian Universalist Arlington St. Church here in Boston will be hosting a memorial service and reception at 12 noon on January 31, 2015

www.michiokushi.org

Mr. Kushi was a proponent and teacher of macrobiotics, literally “large life,” and the founder of the Erewhon natural food stores in Boston and Cambridge and the 7th. Inn and Sanae restaurants here in Boston.

Folks are sometimes surprised to learn that  I have been a vegetarian for over 35 years.

It was with sadness that I learned of the passing of Mr. Kushi although we had never met.

Mr. Kushi’s Boston store at 342 Newbury St; currently occupied by a Ralph Lauren ‘Rugby’ store  was where much of my early education as a vegetarian was gleaned.

(Erewhon also had a store on Mass. Ave. in Cambridge, MA between Harvard and Porter Squares).

My veggieism began covertly as even I wasn’t completely cognizant of  the first stirrings of what has come to be a life-long path.  During my very first time living outside of the confines of my Mom I was unwilling to clean and even less willing to spend to purchase meat.  To be sure I was working in restaurants at that time as a dishwasher and busser so flesh was on the menu if not in the refrigerator.

In 1978 I was a 20 year-old Counselor-in-Training at the Unitarian Universalist Rowe Camp and Conference Center Junior High Camp  where I read Frances Lappe’s DIET FOR A SMALL PLANET, 1974, ISBN-13 978-0345321206  (This ISBN is for the 10th Anniversary revised edition).

DIET FOR A SMALL PLANET changed my life forever.  Ms. Lappe’s concentration on eating lower on the food chain by the virtue of protein combinations not only cleansed diets but pointed the way to a sustainable form of food economics.

A year later I was in the midst of my 1st. spring in Boston when I lost my job under nebulous circumstances.  Vowing to eliminate immoral acts from my day-to-day life meat was purged from my diet.

Erewhon became my market.

“Erewhon” is an anagram for “nowhere” and ‘Erewhon’ is an 1872 utopian novel by Samuel Butler about communal living.

Erewhon was well ahead of the curve regarding the availability of items such as soba noodles, wheat grass, bok choi, arugula and mung sprouts at a time when the ‘produce’ section of the Westland Ave. Stop n’ Shop deemed Romaine(Boston) lettuce to be “exotic.”

Erewhon featured framed calligraphy of Mr. Kushi’s thoughts from the exposed brick walls long before they had become a cliche’.

(The exposed brick was the cliche’, not Mr. Kushi’s thoughts).

Mr. Kushi was a proponent of macrobiotics and eschewed red meat, dairy, refined sugar and virtually all added ingredients artificial or not.

Mr Kushi also stressed seasonal and local cuisine to more perfectly attune one to one’s locale.

I followed macrobiotic for several weeks and although I was delighted that my 17th. bout with post-adolescent acne had been quelled the extreme weight loss engendered was not practical for my way of life.  By the end of the summer of 1979 I had phased into the lacto-ovo vegetarian diet that has served me well  to this day.

Erewhon represented a retail culture that is now an endangered species in our smartphone/social media millennium.  I remember very well learning the differences between “wheat” and “whole wheat” and between udon and soba noodles not from the staff but from Erewhon shoppers.  Indeed shopping at Erewhon was nutrition for the intellect as well as the body.

Erewhon had precious little competition for its market of veggies, macrobiotics buffs and what would now be called “foodies”.  Boylston St. offered Nature Food Center which plied enormous 1000 count jars of 500 milligram Vitamin C along with carob coated wheat cookies that tasted like carpet remnants soaked in Nestles’ Quik.

Erewhon offered many tastings of its wares and this budget challenged consumer gleaned small meals from strategic arrivals at 5:30 P.M.  Folks wandered around stuffing themselves with organic figs from Bulk Foods containers long before Whole Foods Market realized that “theft” increased sales and the Whole Foods market demographic could afford the markup that endorsed “theft”.

Sad to say but Erewhon was plagued not just with customers seeking freebies but with rampant shoplifting as the staff was disinclined to interrupt those seeking 5 finger discounts.

“Communalism” is a lofty aspiration but an impractical one at the urban, retail level. 

Many a time I wandered through Erewhon with a bag of autumnal Bartlett pears and whole wheat linguini seeking to pay for my goods at the all-too-often unattended registers.

Erewhon practiced a “non-hierarchical” form of management which manifestly failed to collect the prices charged.

Mr. Kushi’s management acumen was minimal at best.  Mr. Kushi’s restaurants, the 7th. Inn at 288 Boylston St; and Sanae at 324 Newbury St; were interesting attempts to bring macrobiotic cuisine to dining.

The 7th. Inn on Boylston St. in the space now occupied by the Four Seasons Hotel was the loftier of the two as the 7th. Inn featured table service from servers in brownish aprons and white shirts without ties.  Even the modest prices of their brown rice and sea vegetables were above my ken at the time so I never sampled the fare.

A press release heralding the opening of the original Sanae notes  that “the SANAE faculty graduated from the heavy hippy drug scene”.

Bon appetit!

Sanae on Newbury St. fared better as it offered counter service only and a hand-lettered selection whiteboard enabling guests to mix and match proteins, veggies and starches.  Sanae was open for several years and closed abruptly in 1982 before re-opening in 1983 as…the 7th. Inn!… before shuttering for good later in 1983.

Erewhon’s food distribution business likewise closed in 1983 although cereal with the “Erewhon” monicker is till sold here in the 21st. Century at my local Whole Foods Market. Erewhon’s website: www.erewhonmarket.com

is unclear as to whether the current business sprouted from Mr. Kushi’s.  Tony and Joesephine Antoci bought Erewhon in 2011.  The website notes that “since the late 60s” Erewhon has been in the natural foods business.  It is not clear whether this Los Angeles based company bought the name or the business in its entirety.  Any further information on this matter would be welcomed by this author.

Mr. Kushi crossed my mind from time to time as I shopped at such  grocers  as Jamaica Plain’s original Arborway Natural which put a familiar face on wholesome food.  Bread & Circus, especially in its Westland Ave; Fenway store organized the shelves, brought in bar codes and was eventually bought out by corporate behemoth Whole Foods Market in 2003.

Today Whole Foods Market operates a 59,000 square foot supermarket in Manhattan’s Time-Warner building.

While Mr. Kushi was far from the ideal CEO he brought to Boston a dietary awareness that had been flying underneath the radar for some time.

“Food faddists” and “health nuts” were the tags attached to pioneers such as Adelle Davis whose LETS EAT RIGHT TO KEEP FIT in 1954, ISBN 4-87187-961-5 and Euell Gibbons’ STALKING THE WILD ASPARAGUS of 1962, ISBN-10 0911469036.  Both Ms. Davis and Mr. Gibbons earned the attention and couch of Johnny Carson.

Mr. Kushi was in the right place at the right time culturally as baby boomers aged into the thoughtful eating that would become the “foodie” market of our 21st. Century.

Having said that, Mr. Kushi’s holistic happenstance approach to business has been emulated by no one.  Indeed, his message might have had significantly more effect had his stores had been profitable.

It is a testament to the worth of his ideals that his influence is noted by many including this scribe.

Mr. Kushi was years ahead of the curve in making available tamari, sea vegetables and an array of Asian wheat and rice noodles.

Locavores and vegans are the unwitting progeny of Mr. Kushi.

Mr. Kushi seems to have been a more than decent man in his personal life, opening his Brookline home to many and living in accordance to his ideals.

Mr. Kushi’s philosophy and diet are not exactly mine.  But like Stephen Gaskin of the Farm in Summertown, Tennessee and the author of “Hey, Beatnik” his ideas contributed much to my collage as much as for what they aren’t as for what the ideas are.

Mr. Kushi, thank you.

Peace, Steve