SGA collaborates with local transit


SGA created Welcome to Boston packages to help familiarize new students with the city.

Alison Booth, news correspondent

The Student Government Association, or SGA, recently partnered with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, or MBTA, and Zipcar to provide incoming Northeastern first-year and transfer students with CharlieCards, a Zipcar discount and detailed transportation information.

CharlieCards are reusable transit passes users can load with money to ride Boston-area subways or buses. Along with these, SGA presented instructions on how to use the cards and a map of MBTA stations. Zipcar, a simplified car rental company, offered students $30 in free driving if they joined for $15.

SGA president Nathan Hostert said the main goal behind the packets was to help students feel oriented with the city.

“When I came to campus, it took me a couple months to get adjusted to the MBTA system and to even find a CharlieCard that I could use,” said Hostert, a third-year political science major. “So we thought this would be a great first step to making sure students feel connected to the city of Boston and start exploring and feeling at home once they get here.”

Working with the Department of Housing & Residential Life, SGA distributed the packages, called “Welcome to Boston” packets, to first-year residence halls so students could utilize them immediately upon moving in.

Hostert organized the collaboration with the MBTA, and has been working with the company on the project since last fall. Initially, Hostert pushed for student-discounted transportation that incorporated a CharlieCard into students’ Husky Cards so that students would be able to use their Husky Card for transportation. When the two systems could not integrate, Hostert helped create the “Welcome to Boston” packets.

The packages weren’t just distributed to Northeastern students,  said Brendan Fogarty, MBTA deputy director of fare products and strategy. First-years at Berklee College of Music and Emerson College also received them. Fogarty also said several other colleges, including UMass Boston, Colleges of the Fenway and Roxbury Community College, received other MBTA packages with transit maps and route schedules.

Fogarty said presenting first-year students with these resources helps both the MBTA and college students in the long run.

“I think whenever you’re going through a really transformative experience, like showing up to college the first year, your norms over the next few years can be established quickly,” Fogarty said, “and your level of comfort with those institutions and ways of getting around can be established very quickly. I think it’s a really good way to demystify the system early.”

First-year theater major Kaitlyn Fiery said she values accessible public transportation in her college experience.

“One of my goals going to school in a city was to interact and be in a vibrant community,” Fiery said. “I wanted to take advantage of everything the city has to offer and discover and learn with the city and I feel like that’s really hard to do if you can’t get around. So, the [T] is really convenient.”

She said receiving a CharlieCard so early helped her get accommodated to the city of Boston early,

“I don’t think I would have used [public transportation] as soon as I did,” Fiery said. “Being introduced to the bus and the T early on made me comfortable with taking it. Also, because I had [a CharlieCard] on me automatically, I didn’t have to go to Ruggles and fiddle with the station; I could just fill it up online.”

Hostert said he wanted all first-year students to feel at ease with Boston’s public transportation system.

“Northeastern has such a diverse student body that so many of us don’t come from the city of Boston; we come from all over the world,” Hostert said. “I think giving students this resource right when they come to campus is a great first step to easing that transition and encouraging students to get out there and start exploring.”

Hostert hopes to continue the SGA’s relationship with the MBTA, hopefully providing similar services for incoming first-years in the future.

“This is absolutely something that we’ll make sure continues to happen every single year,” Hostert said,  “because we’ve gotten great feedback on it so far and I think it really is a great resource and a great help to students.”

Fogarty said he’d like not only to continue the partnership but also “go further.”

“If students feel comfortable with the T at their freshman year, they’ll probably be consistent customers in the workfield,” Fogarty said. “We remain a reliable service that is really trying to invest in the future and I’m really interested in any school that requests marketing materials and, for the time being, CharlieCards. I’m happy to build these relationships over time.”

Ultimately, Fiery feels grateful for the “Welcome to Boston” packets because she said they help introduce first-years to “each individual flavor of Boston.”

“I think it encourages students to take advantage of the city,” Fiery said. “I know a lot of people that have been using their CharlieCard; it’s just another resource that makes Northeastern a great place for students.”