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About the Transit Benefits Program

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The City of Somerville has four free public transit programs to make public transit more accessible in our community!  

  1. M7 Student Passes for all Somerville Public School students grades 7 to 12. All students received a M7 pass in September at school. No application needed. If you have any questions about your student pass, connect with the front office staff at your school.
  1. Monthly passes for low-income parents and guardians of SPS students. Contact your School-Based Family Liaison to learn about eligibility and availability.
     
  2. Monthly passes for low-income residents. Residents are eligible if they are enrolled in a partner program like SNAP, MassHealth, enrolled in Head Start, or make up to double the federal poverty line. Contact CAAS to learn more about availability.
     
  3. Monthly passes for SPS and City staff. Staff should reach out to their managers for more information.

Check out the information below to learn more about the programs and how to apply if you are eligible.

If you need assistance in a language other than English, contact the SomerViva Office of Immigrant Affairs at somervillema.gov/contactSomerViva or call 311 (617-666-3311).

Please note, if you are between 18 and 25 and are enrolled in a Youth Pass partner program, you may be eligible for the MBTA Youth Pass Program. If you are over 65 you are eligible for the Senior Charlie Card Program. If you are a person with a disability or a Medicare cardholder, you may be eligible for reduced fares with a Transportation Access Pass (TAP).

Why is Somerville doing this?

The City is providing transit passes that allow people an unlimited number of trips for 12 months on subway and buses to provide economic relief and expand access to jobs, services, educational and social opportunities to more of our community members, especially young adults and lower-income community members. These programs align with Somerville’s strategic plans and goals to increase sustainable and equitable transportation options.

Program Goals:

  • Equity: Everyone should be able to get where they need to go regardless of income
  • Access: Access to economic and educational opportunities, social and health services amenities​
  • Environment: Reduce emissions and help meet Somerville’s Climate goal of achieving a non-car mode-share of 75% by 2040

“Funding these passes is one way we are increasing our local investment in youth and families while also advancing our climate action goals. Public transportation is a public good that must be an accessible, reliable resource for all residents, and this is a vital step in that direction. I thank the MBTA, the City Council, and the School Committee for supporting this program and look forward to building on initiatives like these going forward.” - Mayor Katjana Ballantyne
 

Student Pass

Background  

Somerville Public Schools (SPS) is providing free MBTA youth transit passes (“M7”) for all our students in grades 7 to 12 for the 2023-2024 school year. With the M7 Card, students can take unlimited trips on the subway, bus, and Commuter Rail to Zones 1A, 1, and 2. This is a continuation of the program from previous years. In the first year of the program (2021-2022), students took over 150,000 trips using the passes with 32 percent taken on the subway. The City is excited to continue and expand this program for the 2023-2024 school year.  

Press Release from August 29, 2022. 

Application 

Cards haven been distributed to students at school by the end of September. 

Visit SPS’s Frequently Asked Questions webpage to learn more. 
 

Parent and Guardian Pass

Background 

The City of Somerville will be distributing a limited amount of free monthly MBTA transit passes to eligible households through the SPS Family Liaisons. These passes are pre-loaded with monthly bus and subway passes and will be valid from time of distribution, through June 2024. Passes are available to parents and guardians of all SPS students of any age or grade. 

Application 

Eligibility will be based on need and passes will be distributed through the school's Family and Community Liaisons. Please fill out your Return to School Survey and speak to your local Family and Community Liaisons to find out if you are eligible. For contact information about your school’s specific liaison, check out the list below.

Low-income Pass

Background 

The City of Somerville will be distributing a limited amount of free monthly MBTA transit passes to eligible persons via the Community Action Agency of Somerville (CAAS). These passes are available for residents enrolled in a partner program like SNAP, MassHealth, enrolled in Head Start, or make up to double the federal poverty line. Residents who are currently enrolled and/or eligible for other free/reduced fare programs such as the SPS Parents and Guardians or the Senior CharlieCard are not eligible. Distribution of passes began in Spring 2023.
 

Application 

Interested participants can fill out the pre-screening form on CAAS’s website here: www.caasomerville.org/transit-program.

To apply, you’ll need documents that show proof of age, address, and enrollment in a public benefit program such as SNAP, MassHealth, HeadStart or documents verifying your income. After completing that form, a program representative will get in touch to schedule an intake meeting and distribute the transit pass.  

If you have any questions, you can reach out to tpass@caasomerville.org or call (617) 599-4185. To speak to someone in Spanish, please call 617-875-3687.

Workforce Pilot

Background 

Somerville Public Schools (SPS) partnered with the City’s Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development to launch the SPS Workforce Transit Pass Pilot Program from January to June 2023. This program was funded thanks to the American Rescue Plan Act. The pilot program provided free MBTA LinkPasses to all SPS staff who chose to sign up. Passes were good 7 days a week for unlimited travel on all MBTA subway lines, local bus lines, and the Silver Line. The goal of the pilot was to support staff, promote sustainable transit, ease parking pressure around schools, and evaluate use and interest in transit passes.  

To learn more about the impact of the pilot, check out the findings below. This pilot was extended into the 2023-2024 school year.

For more information on the pilot extension, now available for City staff as well, please see the Human Resources webpage.  

Findings 

The City was able to study the pilot through 3 surveys that teachers and staff responded to, and usage data provided by the MBTA. In this study, we found that  

  • 523 staff members took a total of 22,590 trips, saving over $45,000.  
  • 95% of cards were used on subway services and 65% were used on bus services throughout the pilot. 
  • 84% of participants felt the transit pass allowed them to use a car less and described other benefits including saving money and having more convenient travel options. 
     
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Comments about the benefits of the passes such as the improvements to mental health since they had more free time to relax and read on the train instead of driving, had the opportunity to take their students to more field trips, and saved money on transportation that helped pay for rising food costs.

 

 

Providing transit access alone does not remove all barriers to using public transit. When asked about barriers to transit, survey takers described system wide problems, such as closures and unreliable service. Even when it was working as intended, some found public transit inconvenient because they lived a long way from a transit stop or found the schedules inconvenient.  

When asked what improvements would help staff take transit more, the most popular answers were   

  1. more frequent transit service (52%),   
  2. transit access closer to home (18%)   
  3. and transit access closer to my workplace (14%).   

In the surveys, we also found that... 

  • People use a variety of modes to complete their trips. 60% of cards were used on both bus and subway modes. Being able to provide both was an important part of the program.  
  • Even staff who indicated they never took transit before (3% of intake surveys) used this card to take new trips on transit, taking a total of 292 trips on their pilot cards.  
  • Transit trips were taken throughout the day. However, 39% of all trips did take place during the morning or evening peak, which provided an alternative to driving during our most congested times of day.   

If you are interested in learning more about the pilot evaluation, this data is available in the City of Somerville Open Data Portal, where you can review the data dashboard and download the data. 
 

Application 

SPS staff can opt into the program by filling out the form emailed to all staff in January 2023. For any additional questions on enrollment, staff should reach out to their manager. 

 

Programs & Initiatives

In 2023, the City created the Digital Bridge Initiative (DBI). The goal of the DBI is to support existing programming and to create new initiatives.
Join us to celebrate Somerville’s open spaces, engage with the City outside of formal meetings, and of course – enjoy some pizza.

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