Students from 50 Boston-area colleges receive 11 percent discounts on semester-long subway and bus passes—but not Harvard undergraduates. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) offers the discount to all local colleges and universities, at no charge. Seven of Harvard’s graduate schools participate, but sadly, the College does not—apparently for no reason whatsoever.
According to MBTA spokesperson Lydia M. Rivera, the MBTA has tried unsuccessfully to get Harvard to sign on—for decades. But MBTA officials say they have only been met with reluctance and resistance. Rivera says College representatives have claimed too few students leave campus often enough for the discount to be worthwhile.
But the discounts would help some students, and since the concessions would cost the University nothing, it is difficult to see how a discount would not be worthwhile. Those students who live off-campus in Allston take the bus to class—and the fares add up quickly. Student tutors and mentors at the Phillips Brooks House Association could use discounted passes for their frequent trips to Boston-area public schools. These examples alone justify Harvard’s participation in the discount program, but in addition, cheaper “T” passes would also encourage students to explore more of Boston’s vast offerings in the way of cultural, artistic and sporting events.
Even if the total number of students who would utilize the discounted passes is smaller than at other schools, all it would cost Harvard is a phone call. Participating colleges may choose to further subsidize the discount—as the University does for its employees—but at the very least, the College could allow students to reap the benefits of the 11 percent MBTA discount without having to pay a penny. In a cost-benefit analysis where there is no cost, there is no excuse.
It is unfortunate that for decades no College administrator bothered to pick up the phone to enroll in a free program to benefit undergraduates. As a result, a discount which costs Harvard nothing regrettably remains unavailable. It is high time for the College to climb on board.