Starting this fall, Boston Public Schools (BPS) will provide MBTA passes for all 7th to 12th graders, not just students living a long distance away from school.
Superintendent Brenda Cassellius said in a statement that the expanded T pass program “will increase transportation access for all students in Grades 7-12.”
“It brings the ‘city as a classroom’ concept to life, allowing students to more easily access the city’s parks, museums, libraries, after school programs, job opportunities and more,” she said. “BPS will continue to be in close communication with the MBTA and our fellow city agencies about their plans to ensure a smooth rollout.”
Expanding the free MBTA pass program was a key recommendation of At-Large City Councilor Michelle Wu’s youth transportation report.
“We should celebrate this step toward transit equity,” she said. “Although the passes are free for students, I am under the impression that BPS must still pay the MBTA for passes as before. The T should be free for all youth and it shouldn’t have to come out of the BPS budget.”
Wu’s Boston Youth Transportation Project (BYTP) examined the transportation experiences of Boston teenaged youth. BYTP researched whether Boston youth face any barriers to transportation and what attitudes they held toward different transportation modes.
The findings revealed that there are young people who cannot access opportunities available to them, and worse, that their transportation experiences put them at risk for discipline with educational and transit authorities, limit their learning and earning potential, produce social apprehension, affect relationships with their parents, and reduce their ability to meet basic needs.
These issues were not only exacerbated by the city’s M7 walkzone policy, but also by the lack of reliable public transit service.
BPS’s M7 walk zone policy prohibited students within two miles of the school that they are attending from receiving a free MBTA pass.
To put it in prospective a student living on Bennington Street near Orient Heights Square assigned to the Donald McKay School for middle school, which is 1.9 miles away on foot, would not be able to qualify for a free MBTA pass. That student would either have to pay out the $30 monthly MBTA pass fee or walk to school.
Walking would take the student roughly 40 minutes each morning and afternoon while jumping on the T or the bus for free would be half that travel time or 20 minutes.