Free Student MBTA Card Eases Commute, Increases Attendance

For students arriving at Brighton High School, it seemed like another normal school day. A police officer was helping direct traffic while a jubilant staff member was greeting the students as they walked on to campus. But the way in which these students arrived at school has changed dramatically since the new school year.

Students in grades seven through 12 at Boston Public Schools started school two weeks ago—with free Charlie Cards in hand. Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, BC ’09, implemented an initiative to provide free MBTA passes to all students in the Boston area starting with the 2019-20 school year. 

“[The initiative] will open up the city to more of our young people,” Walsh said during the annual meeting of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau back in March. “It will foster a new generation of transit riders and transit advocates.”

The initiative aims to break down transportation barriers that might inhibit certain students from attending school—expanding equity in the public school system.

Fares for the T were raised over the summer, causing outcry from advocates who said the increase would disproportionately affect people who already struggled to pay for the T fare. The mayor announced in March that the fare would be free for public school students.

“It makes my life easier and better that I don’t have to put money in [my Charlie Card],” said Eysha Merchado, a freshman at Brighton High School. “I’ve never really taken public transportation until they provided me with one.” 

Other students at Brighton High also now rely on public transportation for their daily commute. Charlie Watson said the T is the only way she gets to and from school.

“Some people were [limited by their lack of transportation] because some people don’t have money to buy their transportation,” Merchado said. 

Some students at Boston Latin School, a six-year college prep school in Longwood, said they have not noticed any increases or decreases in the use of public transportation. 

“I think everything is pretty normal,” said John Tran, a high school student at Boston Latin. “Pretty much the same.”  

Other students at Boston Latin, like Sophia Encaraaca, said they were unaffected because they had already been taking public transportation.

But students at Brighton High were quick to point out that students no longer have to take yellow school buses because of the new student T passes.   

“A lot of people … used to not come to school because of how much it costs to get here,” said Watson. 

Public transportation is now more accessible than ever for the students of Brighton High School. Students have now been riding the commuter trains and commuter buses for three weeks, free of charge. 

Featured Image by Celine Lim / Heights Editor