In the previous issue, there was an article published titled, "MBTA Student Discount to Increase by Nearly 350 percent Thanks to UMass Green Party Chapter." I’m not sure about you, but a 350 percent increase on anything does not necessarily seem feasibly sound.
As stated in the article, “currently the MBTA offers a meager 11 percent discount to all students on their MBTA commuter rail and link passes” which I would like to mention, is a lot more than the zero percent discount student drivers receive on their transportation costs. In fact, the parking fee was hit by a 50 percent increase, at the minimum, and 150 percent increase at the maximum. Never mind the cost of gas, insurance, and regular maintenance. The students who take the train have access to a free shuttle provided by the University of Massachusetts Boston bringing them to and from the station, that cost is already added expenses for the university. At the very least, those who pay for parking, keep money in circulation at the institution, and fees can cover shuttles to and from Bayside.
UMass Boston serves over 16,000 students (1), as of 2014, and a “meager” 0.016 percent (258 students) voted yes in favor of the $20 per semester non-waivable fee, for the referendum question on the MBTA pass. There were only 492 undergraduate voters, in a population of 16,000 students. Are we going to let less than one percent of students represent the entire entity of UMass Boston?
According to the transportation office at UMass Boston, they sell roughly 550-1,000 MBTA passes per semester. The number is usually higher in the fall, peaking at 1,000 passes, and drops to about 550 passes sold in the spring. That is still only 3.44 to 6.25 percent of students that go to UMass Boston. So where are the other 97 percent of students? They’re online, in the new Residence Halls, in surrounding apartment complexes, or driving to school. So, all of the 15,500 students who don’t take the T will now be responsible to pay a non-waivable $20 fee every semester, for everyone but themselves to take the train at a 50 percent discount. Not only do the students who do not take the train to school pay extra costs already, including facing residence hall prices averaging at $16,243 per year (2), and rooms in surrounding complexes ranging from $1,200–$2,400 per bedroom, but they are now going to be responsible for other students getting to class. There are a total of 2,019 students living in Dorchester, according to data from 2018, 703 of whom live in Harbor Point or Peninsula apartment complexes. These 703 students who live within walking distance from campus, and the 1,000 students that live on campus make up far more of a population than those taking the train.
The MBTA costs are statewide costs that are set by the state of Massachusetts. The majority of students at the university should not be held responsible for shortcomings you may find with the state.
As far as encouragement to take the T, I’m afraid the $2.50 ride that is less than an iced coffee is not what draws people away from taking the train. (4) The lack of on-time schedules, lack of security at the train stations, and inconvenience that the MBTA provides for its passengers could be it. This includes almost always having broken elevators making it difficult for anyone who is handicapped to be using the T effectively, which deters riders from enjoying the train’s amenities.
The $20 non-waivable fee that 0.016 percent of students imposed on the rest of the students at UMass Boston will bring in a whopping $640,000 a year—for the benefit of 1,000 students! At this rate, you might as well start our own UMass Boston transit system. The fee is not only a completely unnecessary amount to be requesting, considering an $11.50 fee did not pass for a student activities fee that would benefit all students. Say, at peak, the transportation office sells the 1,000 passes, to zone 1A students, which is $300.82, this covers all immediate Boston lines, and reaches out to bordering towns, but they will still have $340,000 left in the account at the end of the year. What are we allocating those funds to? According to the referendum question, they are to be used for nothing but this subsidy. So, UMass Boston, which is in great debt, will sit on $340,000. This could cover 618 semester passes in the new parking garage. (3)
The MBTA is not motivated to invest in their trains because they are already receiving the money they want. With an extra $640,000 in their pockets, I’m sure that the motivation level won’t be tipping the scales, just the money bags will.
The question may have gotten a majority vote, but with the way that it stands, the majority of students are unhappy with this referendum question being passed. The vote was unfair, as it did not represent the diverse community UMass Boston is so proud of, and it does not support any other way of getting to school, including the most environmentally friendly way—walking, which 10 percent of students contribute to every day. A better step into 100 percent renewable energy would be advocating for more bike usage, and walking to campus. As stated above, there are approximately 3,000 students, 18.75 percent, who live within walking distance to campus, and a number more that live within biking distance.
My hope is that UMass Boston will realize that the vote does not reflect the majority of UMass Boston students. In fact, it seems that it benefits the minority, leaving the rest of the 15,000 students to figure out yet another cost added to their tuition. I do not think English majors would like to split the lab fee costs with biology majors, and I do not think those who made decisions to live on campus, or drive, should be responsible for other’s fees.
If you would like to put in your opinion in a poll on this issue, please look for a e-mail sent out by the university this week!