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    Amid fare hikes, T expands student pass program

    MBTA personnel help BC High students make their way through the fare gates at JFK/UMass station on the Red Line.
    Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe/File
    MBTA personnel help BC High students make their way through the fare gates at JFK/UMass station on the Red Line.

    The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority will increase prices in July for nearly every fare it offers to riders, but officials want students to know that they’ll have even more access to yearlong monthly discounts.

    On Monday, the MBTA board voted to expand its student pass program with a yearlong pilot, making 12-month, $30 monthly passes available to more students.

    The agency came under fire for raising fares for student passes by 23 percent to $32 in its original proposals. But after Boston public schools officials and parents spoke out against the move, officials lowered the price to $30 a month (which was still a 15 percent increase).

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    But MBTA officials said they also wanted to make sure they could give students more access to the discounts.

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    For example, the Boston public schools are one of the only districts that buy students monthly passes in bulk — more than 20,000 passes a month. Board members on Monday voted to give districts a $1 discount per pass if they purchased more than 1,000 passes, which they hope will encourage more districts to participate.

    In addition to the monthly passes for students, the MBTA has a program that allows schools to distribute Student CharlieCards that give students a 50 percent discount on each ride. But when officials did the math, they realized that students who used those discount cards to get to and from school each day would end up paying more than the price of a monthly pass for students.

    Under the new, expanded program, students will be able use their Student CharlieCards to obtain a student discount on unlimited monthly rides. Also, passes that previously only lasted 10 months will now last the entire year.

    Officials will test the new arrangement at least a year before deciding whether the change will be permanent.

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    David DeRuosi, superintendent of Malden’s public schools, said he was eager to have such an opportunity for the students in his district. With the MBTA’s Orange Line and buses serving the schools, he wants to give students access to jobs and classes at nearby Bunker Hill Community College.

    “Sitting here in Malden, I can see the Orange Line from my office window,” he said. “It makes sense for our kids.”

    Lost signals in tunnel to be found again

    When it comes to radio signals, traveling through the Thomas P. O’Neill Jr. Tunnel has long been a smooth ride.

    But lately, I’ve had a couple commuters ask about why the radio and cellular phone signals have been cutting out in the tunnel. Are we destined to have a few minutes of static every morning?

    Just for a while longer, according to Massachusetts Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jacquelyn Goddard. Portions of the tunnel’s antenna system haven’t been working, and the department is waiting for the new parts — but that may take up to three months, she said.

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    “After the parts are received, installation will take place, most likely during the summer months,” Goddard said.

    Just in time for you to belt out your morning jams with the windows down, no less.

    More Green Line meetings

    At the first public meeting that revealed possible changes to the stations in the Green Line extension, many advocates of the project had some heated words for officials.

    But even if you missed your chance to tell officials about your own opinions, don’t fear: As control board members continue to debate whether to keep the project alive, there are several more meetings scheduled.

    Every meeting has an open house portion from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., where you can look through some of the potential changes. That’s followed by a presentation and question-and-answer session from 6:30 to 9 p.m.

    Here’s where the meetings will be held:

    Wednesday, March 23, at Tufts University Cohen Auditorium, 40 Talbot Ave., Medford

    Wednesday, April 13, at Somerville High School Auditorium, 81 Highland Ave., Somerville

    Wednesday, April 27, atSt. Anthony’s School Hall, 400 Cardinal Medeiros Ave., Cambridge

    Thursday, May 5, at St. Clement’s Parish Hall, 579 Boston Ave., in Medford.

    Nicole Dungca can be reached at nicole.dungca@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ndungca.