Taking the T to School 
MBTA logo
More than 15,000 students ride the MBTA to school every day using free passes provided by BPS. For the 2015-16 school year, these passes will expand from a five-day pass to a full seven-day pass. In addition, the Boston School Committee has voted to expand student access to public transportation. This will give more students flexibility to attend before- and after-school programs while reducing transportation costs. Under this plan, students with disabilities who receive yellow bus service as part of their IEP would continue to ride yellow buses.
The School Committee directed BPS to build an implementation plan and create a working group that ensured collaborative engagement, coordination and regular review. As this work has moved forward over the spring and summer we have decided to implement our policy over time, beginning with our 7th and 8th-grade students this year. Students in 6th grade will ride yellow buses.
Our implementation plan also includes opportunities for ongoing evaluation and assessment. This allows us to address potential concerns on an ongoing basis. Our longer-term implementation strategies will be informed by data, community engagement and student experiences. We will engage the public in this conversation in the fall and winter to inform future decisions.
Here is what it means this year:
  • 6th grade students will receive yellow bus transportation but have the option to receive a free MBTA pass instead.
  • 7th and 8th-grade students will receive MBTA passes. These students will receive their MBTA passes on the first day of school. Students with trips that would be longer than one hour or that would require three or more transfers on the MBTA will ride yellow buses instead. These families will receive yellow bus information in late August. Waivers for identified safety reasons will also be available.
  • Students with disabilities in all grades who receive yellow bus transportation as part of an IEP will continue to receive yellow bus service, just as before.
If you would prefer that your 6th grade student travel to school on the MBTA and receive a free seven-day pass, please contact us before August 14 to let us know. Here’s how:
  • Call our Transportation Hotline during business hours at (617) 635-9520 or
  • Send an email to transportation@bostonpublicschools.org and include your name, your phone number, your student’s name and their student ID number. Let us know that you would prefer that your student receive an MBTA pass rather than yellow bus transportation. 
  • Fill out an “opt-in” form (below) and mail it to BPS by August 14. Please send it to: BPS Transportation Department, 2300 Washington St., Roxbury, MA 02119.
Students who are assigned seven-day MBTA passes will receive them at the beginning of the school year. The MBTA will be free for students on September 4 to allow travel without a pass. The pass will be valid any day of the week for unlimited use on bus, subway and Boston-area commuter rail lines. With these passes students have flexibility to arrive earlier or stay later without having to rely on a yellow bus schedule.
6th families can request a seven-day MBTA pass rather than yellow bus service
  • Students assigned to the MBTA can request a yellow bus instead, under certain conditions
  • Fill out and return this form or call the Transportation Hotline at (617) 635-9520 or send an email to transportation@bostonpublicschools.org to learn more and make the request 
Some schools worked closely with parents and families this spring to design before- and after-school opportunities around the flexibility that MBTA service provides for 6th, 7th and 8th graders. Students in these schools will receive MBTA passes this year. Parents/guardians of 6th grade students in these schools can request yellow bus service – all they have to do is call the Transportation Hotline at (617) 635-9520 or send an email to transportation@bostonpublicschools.orgThere are a few other schools that have provided MBTA service for 7th and 8th graders for many years. These services will remain the same.
Types of T passes
MBTA passes are built into our OneCard student ID badges.
  • M7 pass: This is a monthly pass that BPS provides for free to transportation-eligible students in grades 7 & 8 and higher. In general, these are students who live more than two miles from school. Many students with disabilities receive corner-to-corner yellow bus service as part of their Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
  • S pass: This is a stored-value "pay-as-you-go" pass. OneCards that are not monthly M7 passes are generally S passes. These passes are good for MBTA travel as long as a student places value on the pass. This can be done at any CharlieCard machine. Using the S pass will allow a student to use any part of the MBTA system within a two-hour window on a single fare. This means if a student gets on a subway, then wishes to transfer to a bus, the transfer must occur within two hours of entering the gate at the subway station. 
Why is BPS expanding the T-pass program?
  • This program is already in place for 1,862 7th and 8th grade students in nine BPS schools and five Boston charter, private and parochial schools.
  • BPS will automatically reload the MBTA passes each month; students can use the cards as often as they’d like on any bus, train or local Commuter Rail line, seven days a week during the school year. BPS will replace a student’s OneCard if it is lost or damaged.
  • Also for the fall of 2015, BPS will offer parents of some 6th grade students the option of switching from a yellow bus to a free MBTA pass. 
When will students receive the MBTA pass?
  • The MBTA pass will be included in the student’s OneCard. The MBTA will be free for students on the first day of school so students can take the MBTA to school and pick up their card once there.
How can I help my student learn the route to school?
  • The MBTA has a trip planner that you can access here. You can enter your home address and the address of your school, and set the time of day you would like to ride. The site will offer several options; we encourage parents and students to practice trips together. 
  • Parents can also call the BPS Transportation Hotline at (617) 635-9520 with questions. This hotline is available all year and we will add extra staff in the late summer and fall. 
Will this affect student travel time?
  • Today the average 7th and 8th grade student who rides a yellow bus spends about 6 minutes walking to the bus stop and then 31 minutes on the bus every morning. When using the MBTA this fall, the average student will spend about 8 and a half minutes, in total, walking to a bus or subway stop and then from a stop to school, and then about 32 minutes riding the MBTA. This means the total trip in the morning will be about 41 minutes using the MBTA, when compared to about 37 minutes today using yellow buses. In the afternoon, the trip home averages about 42 minutes today. This fall it will be about 45 minutes, which includes walking and riding the T.
  • Some schools aren’t easily accessible on the MBTA. This is why we are providing 60 yellow bus shuttle trips to bring students to and from major MBTA stops. These shuttles will run in loops between major stops and the schools, so if students miss one bus they can take the next one.
  • The BPS 7th and 8th grade students who currently ride the MBTA are actually more likely to have good attendance and arrive on-time than students who walk or ride the yellow bus.
What about safety?
  • BPS is working with school leaders, community members, students, safety experts, Boston Police, the MBTA, Operation StopWatch, City Year and the City of Boston to ensure safe, on-time transportation for all students whether they walk, ride a bus or take the T.
  • BPS is conducting Pedestrian Safety Assessments at all middle and K-8 schools this spring and summer. Led by Safe Routes to Schools and Walk Boston, these assessments look at the routes students take before and after school. We have already begun to make improvements to traffic patterns, lighting, crossing signals and the use of crossing guards, as well as addressing other safety concerns.
  • Working with Operation StopWatch, this fall we will increase positive adult presence at key MBTA stops, including Ashmont, Fields Corner, Forest Hills, Downtown Crossing, Ruggles and JFK/UMass in the morning and afternoon. These adults will wear special vests to identify themselves. They will assist students with directions and help ensure a safe environment.
  • The MBTA has let us know that, even though more students ride the MBTA every year, it has not seen an increase in student safety incidents.
About the MBTA Trip Planner
Where's my School Bus  
Transportation Hotline
(617) 635-9520