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City officials pledge safe MBTA rides for 8th-graders

As younger Boston students prepare to take the MBTA to school this year, city officials are seeking to reassure families that public transit will be as safe as the yellow school buses they’re used to.

Speaking at the Maverick Blue Line station in East Boston today, Mayor Martin J. Walsh and MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott described special efforts aimed at assisting the 2,100 eight-graders who will now be riding the T to school, as a result of budget trimming.

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Boston public schools will have 50 people wearing blue vests at major stops to help students get to their proper destinations.

“We are going to do everything we can to make this extremely successful,” said Scott.

The school department projects it will save $2 million by reducing bus service for eighth-graders, but the plan has raised some safety concerns from parents and advocates. Others worried that the change could lead to attendance problems, or that the thousands of additional riders could overburden the transit system.

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Officials said the T would have no trouble handling the influx of new riders and that police patrols would be stepped up in the mornings as a precaution.

“We’re confident the right planning has been done and the right supports are in place,” said Walsh.

Students who take the train receive free T passes that can be used seven days a week.

“Students have been asking for the 7-day pass for years,” said John McDonough, acting schools superintendent. “Students need more options.”

Sixth- and seventh-graders can also request the free passes, although the city will continue to provide bus service for those who qualify.

MBTA Transit Police Deputy Chief Kenneth Green said he had advised officers to be patient with young riders. He said more officers would be on patrol to help students get to school “in a safe and timely manner.’’

Officials said they had visited every middle school to examine options for students who take the T, ride a school bus, or walk.

School buses will also run routes connecting schools to MBTA locations, including Forest Hills, Mattapan Square, Ruggles, Fields Corner, Ashmont, Maverick, Sullivan Square, and Andrew Square.

Officials urged families with questions to call the BPS Transportation Hotline at 617-635-9520. Additional information is available through the MBTA trip planner.

Peter Schworm can be reached at schworm@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globepete. Andy Rosen can be reached at rosen@globe.com
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