Emerson to work with MBTA for a cheaper semester pass

The college plans to work with the MBTA to create an exclusive, discounted semester pass for fall 2019 following a proposed fare increase on Jan. 21 for public transportation in Massachusetts Bay, according to a college official.

Assistant Director for Off-Campus Student Services Jeff Morris said the proposed pass would only cover the 110 days included in Emerson’s academic year. If the MBTA raises prices, current semester passes would increase by $20—from $300 to $320. The MBTA also plans to raise one-way bus fares by 10 cents, from $1.70 to $1.80, and one-way subway fares by 15 cents, from $2.25 to $2.40.

The college—like most universities—offers students semester passes with an 11 percent discount.

You look at high school students and they get 50 percent off [MBTA] passes,” Morris said. “That’s why we’re working with the MBTA to try and lower [the cost] and make the pass even more intentional for what the Emerson student [needs] and what their schedules will be like through the year.”

The MBTA held a public meeting on Feb. 27 at the State Transportation Building where elected officials and citizens expressed their opinions about the proposed fare changes. Boston City Council President Michelle Wu said she opposed the changes and advocated for the MBTA to be free.

“The total [fare] increase will be over 40 percent since 2012 and that’s not only unaffordable, but it’s unwise if we’re trying to reduce [road] traffic and fight climate change,” Wu said. “So we need to be having this conversation to get closer to fare-free transit.”

Morris said students will be the most affected by the proposed fare increase because some already pay $300 for a semester pass.

“In my opinion, this is still really high,” Morris said. “What’s concerning is that, for your average person, $20 is just $5 a month, but for a student that can mean four or five meals.”

In a Boston Globe op-ed, MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said the MBTA plans to use the revenue from fare raises to make improvements to the public transportation system, such as longer hours and upgraded train cars. He wrote that the MBTA cut back expenses and found other revenue sources, such as selling advertising space, to eliminate their 2016 deficit of $170 million.

“Modestly raising fares is part of the T’s strategy to invest in our workforce and our assets, and to improve service, with the goal of accelerating the pace of change to finally produce the system that T riders—and the taxpayers of the Commonwealth—need and deserve,” Poftak wrote in the op-ed.

Junior Elvis Chen said he rides the T every day and uses the semester pass to cover the cost of riding from his apartment in Roxbury.

“I always get the semester pass because I know I will be taking the T every single day throughout the semester—it makes sense for me to plan ahead and pay more money at once rather than to pay as I go,” Chen said.

Student Government Association Class of 2022 Senator Brady Baca attended the meeting and said he thinks the increase in fares would hurt lower-income students.

“I think it’s just a slap in the face to members of the Emerson community who don’t happen to come from wealthy backgrounds,” he said.

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