Tufts expands discounted MBTA pass program

A group of people passes through the ticketing station in Davis Square on March 15. (Ben Kim / The Tufts Daily Archives)

Tufts students can purchase discounted Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) passes, according to an email sent by Tufts Student Services on June 26 informing them that the passes were available to order for the fall 2017 and spring 2018 semesters. While the program was available in the past, developing its latest version has taken over a year, and this was the first time the student body was notified of the discounted passes via email.

Alan Garcia, associate bursar and pay site administrator for the program, told the Daily in an email that the passes are offered at an 11-percent discount on any of the 17 types of passes the MBTA offers. However, Garcia noted that the 134 students who bought passes prior to the Aug. 1 deadline only took advantage of five of the possible pass types.

Students can purchase passes via their SIS account, under the Student Living menu. The fall 2017 passes offer purchasing students unlimited  rides from September to December, the MBTA Semester Pass Program notes. 

The program began in 2013 after a collaborative effort between the Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate and the Office for Campus Life (OCL), initially offering students the opportunity to purchase Tufts-subsidized round-trip tickets. However, the process to receive the tickets required paperwork in addition to a TCU Treasury member’s signature, and the program was aimed at helping student groups.

Now overseen by the Tufts Bursar’s office, the program offers the discount to all undergraduate students until a month before the start of each semester.

There are discount options for other Tufts students, depending on their campus location, according to the bursar’s website. Boston-based Health Science School students, faculty and staff can receive a 25-percent discount on a monthly pass, while Grafton students are eligible for an 11-percent discount.

Students at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA) are also among the students offered the 11-percent discount, Garcia noted in an email to the Daily.

While the deadline at Tufts was Aug. 1, other universities with similar discounted pass programs have later registration dates. According to their respective websites, Boston University’s fall 2017 semester pass deadline was Aug. 10, while Northeastern University offered its until Aug. 11.

“[I believe] a longer purchasing period will benefit more students in need,” Fifi Wong, a junior, said.

Lizzie Maelane, a sophomore who takes classes at the SMFA, has purchased a pass in the past, but has since decided that the price was beyond her means.

“For me I just never had that kind of money ready to go right away. I just do weekly passes because it’s easier for me to pay on a weekly basis,” Maelane said. “If you have the money it doesn’t hurt, it gives you that peace of mind. I would not say people should stress themselves if they missed the deadline or if they couldn’t afford it.”

Wong is among those who did purchase a fall 2017 pass. According to Wong, who will be living off campus and commuting from Somerville regularly, purchasing the discounted semester pass was a sensible choice.

“I’m pretty dependent on the MBTA service. Since I’m a regular T user, I’d rather buy a semester pass and pay less than paying the MBTA $84.50 a month for a monthly pass,” Wong said. “Both allow me to unlimitedly take the T, so why not save some money?”

Despite the notable benefit of the discount, Wong feels that the semester pass program should be better publicized to Tufts students, and that the logistics of the program could have been clearer.

“It would be better if Tufts had advertised it more to let more students know that such a resource exists,” Wong said.

Spring 2018 passes will eventually be available on SIS, and the Tufts Office of Sustainability website notes that the deadline will be in January prior to the beginning of the semester.