Students at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences will be able to purchase semester MBTA bus and link passes at 50 percent off beginning next fall, a more generous discount than the current 11 percent.
The link pass, which can be used for unlimited bus and T rides, currently costs $267 per semester at the existing 11 percent discount offered by the MBTA to participating universities. The new discount, funded by the GSAS administration, will lower that fare to $150, half off the original price.
After the new discount, students who purchase passes for both the fall and spring semesters will save a total of $156 on the bus pass and $234 on the link pass.
GSAS dean for administration and finance Allen Aloise, who took on the job in July, spearheaded the change. Aloise said he visited students across the school’s various programs in order solicit their feedback.
“One of the things that I heard from students was that many of them rely on mass transportation to get to campus,” Aloise said. “And they felt that the 11 percent discount they were getting on the MBTA passes was too low, and I agreed.”
According to Aloise, about 400 of the roughly 4,000 GSAS students live in one of the four graduate student residential halls, and about 500 live in Harvard University housing in the Cambridge area. The rest live in the greater Boston area, and many utilize public transportation to commute to campus.
Aloise added that while the school’s administration does not collect data on how far away students are currently living in comparison to previous years, anecdotal evidence suggests students are living farther away from campus.
Such is the case for Joseph M. Reilly, a Ph.D student who lives in Brookline, a few miles south of Cambridge.
“People are just getting priced out of Cambridge. More biotechs and startups keep opening up. Lots of people are trying to move into that area between MIT and Harvard,” Reilly said. “It’s just really expensive, especially if you have kids.”
Reilly, who bought a local bus pass for this semester, said the new discount was a pleasant surprise.
“I was excited,” he said. “It kind of came out of the blue, but that’s a nice perk.”
Jieun Choi, a graduate student in Astronomy, lives in Porter Square and travels to her office at the Center for Astrophysics by foot. But she still intends to buy a discounted pass next fall.
“Mostly I take the bus to go to my climbing gym a couple times a week,” Choi said. “It’s not worth it for me right now when it’s just 11 percent, but with 50 percent it will definitely be worth it.”
Aloise said he and his colleagues, including GSAS Dean Xiao-Li Meng, responded to graduate student concerns by reallocating funds in order to increase the discount.
“I think it’s a nice illustration of how important it is for graduate students to make their needs known to GSAS,” Aloise said. “We are ready and willing to listen to them, we have a history of listening to them, and we’re strong advocates for them.”
—Staff writer Leah S. Yared can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Leah_Yared.
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