With some uncertainty surrounding the Boston Public School bus contracts at the start of the school year, Mayor Martin Walsh launched a new initiative to help the growing number of older students that opt for public transportation get to school safely.
Walsh, joined Boston Public Schools Interim Superintendent John McDonough and MBTA General Manager Dr. Beverly Scott at Maverick MBTA station in East Boston to kickoff a safe, free, expanded school-year transportation service for students here and across the city in grades 8-12. “Our schools, public safety agencies, and community partners have teamed up with the MBTA to ensure every student has a safe, on-time trip to school this fall,” said Walsh. “Even though thousands of students have taken the MBTA every day for years, this is the first year that we have coordinated so many resources to focus on student safety. Starting on Day One, students will see our teams in bright blue vests ready to help them ride the T and get to school safely and on time.” At the request of the Boston School Committee, this spring, BPS launched a community effort that brought safety teams to every middle school to focus on improving safety for students who walk to school, take the T, or ride a school bus.
For Eastie students the initiative supports the expansion of existing MBTA service to more 8th grade students this fall. According to Walsh and BPS data, numbers show that more and more students here are opting to walk or take public transportation rather than yellow bus service. In prior years citywide, more than 15,000 students in grades 9-12 and an additional 1,800 students in grades 7 and 8 already received MBTA passes instead of yellow bus service.
This year the MBTA also worked with BPS to expand the existing five-day student pass for Eastie students to a seven-day pass, which is good from September to June. Eastie students who qualify for transportation in grades 8-12 received their pass on the first day of school last Thursday. Parents of students in grades 6 and 7 who currently ride yellow buses can request the free pass as well, which would then replace a yellow bus. “An MBTA pass offers students the flexibility to get to school earlier and participate in after-school activities without relying on a yellow bus schedule,” said MBTA General Manager Dr. Beverly Scott. “We are proud of our record bringing more than 15,000 students in Boston to and from school safely every day and are looking forward to the opportunity to serve even more students this year as we expand our focus on safety and service.” Students with disabilities who receive yellow bus service as part of an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) will continue to ride yellow school buses in all grades. “We will work closely with the community this fall to make sure the additional students riding the T this year have a safe experience,” said BPS Interim Superintendent John McDonough. “This process has brought a significant level of commitment and cooperation this spring and summer. Now, as we begin the school year, this expansion allows us to offer more students the flexibility to participate in after-school activities along with the free seven-day pass they have long asked for.” Families with questions about the MBTA pass program or transportation service in general can call the BPS Transportation Hotline at (617) 635-9520. Parents with specific concerns about student safety on the MBTA can also call the Hotline to request a wavier.