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There are 25 comments on What Will It Take for BU Commuters to Switch from Cars to the MBTA?

    1. And they would be serious about enforcing (or getting BPD to enforce) the bike lanes along Comm Ave. Instead, BUPD and the BU Buses routinely park in those lanes, forcing people who cycle into the vehicle travel lanes. And there is no enforcement of private vehicles or delivery trucks that block lanes.

      This is a huge safety hazard and one of many ways BU doesn’t really seem to care much about those cycling to campus.

  1. While sustainability is critical, and I applaud the university for thinking green, the plan to increase parking costs ignores some important facts about living in Boston. Living expenses in Boston continue to rise and living near a commuter rail, subway, or bus line can come with a hefty price tag. Some faculty and staff are forced to live in areas without easily accessible public transportation options which leaves them with two choices: pay an exorbitant amount to park on campus or spend 1-2 hours commuting each way (hello exhaustion, decreased productivity, and short term tenure of employment). If BU would like to continue this trend in higher parking costs I’m all for it – but start to increase pay to be competitive with the likes of BC, Harvard, and MIT. Our positions here do not compete with those of our competitors and we’ll soon see the best and brightest jumping ship to make ends meet. As is often the case, there are many unintended consequences of these increased costs.

    1. But, since I know the university won’t seriously overhaul pay structures, perhaps we take a look at parking costs being directly tied to your level of pay? 2% of your annual net pay could be your parking fee. 30k a year? You park for $600. 120k a year? That’ll be $2400 a year.

  2. I agree with Bryan’s remarks. Also, the MBTA is not very reliable at this point in time. Employees will be late for work undoubtedly! This is not the “cure” until they can get their lines to a suitable place where the public can rely on its service.

  3. High occupancy car poll lane on 93 south was opened to all traffic in May, so all this talk about being green in Massachusetts is all for show. The university pay is so low that most employees must commute to the campus from far away. Not everyone can bike to work as Boston never was and never will be a bicycle-friendly and safe city.

  4. I wonder if the University has considered a policies for staff to work remotely or compressed work week? This would reduce the number of people commuting.

    1. I agree – a university wide policy on allowing work from home or longer days/shorter weeks would be huge. Right now it’s based on college/department/program with vast differences in what employees are allowed.

  5. I would absolutely love to take the T to work/campus each day, the only issue is that it the T is SO COMPLETELY UNRELIABLE and I would NEVER EVER GET TO WORK or back home at a reasonable time. Also people with younger children who need to get dropped off at daycare of school, sometimes have no choice but to drive, so raising the parking fees is unfair as well.

  6. As a large-scale employer, BU could be doing a lot more to put public pressure on the city and state toward the betterment of MBTA. There is a single bus that can accommodate my commute; at rush hour it runs every twenty minutes (!). And this is what makes things unworkable — it is extremely unreliable. Even the 90 minutes I allow to get from here to my child’s afterschool program in Somerville before it closes sometimes isn’t enough. This creates a huge amount of stress, definitely reducing my productivity as I am forced monitor bus location starting at 3:30pm.

    I live in the same house as another BU employee, and our schedules are just different enough that we cannot rely on a single parking pass. Even if we did, we would not get the Commute Better Together benefit because I gave up my green pass years ago for cost reasons. It boggles the mind that the two of us need to either spend in excess of $300 monthly parking here, or hustle this much just to make a 3.5 mile commute in a major metropolitan area.

  7. There is no doubt that we need to do everything in our power to be more sustainable, both as a university community and individuals. I am in full support of that. Yet, I also can’t help but see a misalignment between our desire to be more sustainable, and the reality of our very modest earnings (for vast majority of BU employees), and one of the highest costs of living in the country. Increase in parking fees for most of us feels almost like a punishment. It’s unrealistic to expect people like myself to spend an average of an hour and forty-five minutes to two hours commuting in each direction coming from Everett (bus to Wellington or Sullivan stations during rush hour- Orange line train to North Station- North Station to Park Street on a green line (B line doesn’t go from North Station)- B line from Park to BU West). Who has 4 hours PER DAY to commute five days a week (4×5=20 hrs x 52 wks= 1040 hrs = 43.41 days per year give or take)?

    Increasing parking fees as a determent to park might be a successful tactic in places that actually have functioning public transportation systems. However, with a system as broken as the MBTA, it’s a literal punishment often to those who are struggling the most. I think it’s important to think about where most of your workforce comes from and the impact that low salaries and higher costs (i.e. parking) have on them…

  8. I am entering my third year as a BU employee. I feel strongly about supporting public transportation, and so I’ve maintained a T pass through my move from a 20 minute Brighton commute to an hour plus commute from Dorchester. I moved to Dorchester to save money, like so many others who are working low-paying jobs in higher education. However, with the increasingly unreliable nature of the T, and my new commute times of 1.5-2 hours each way, I’m finally giving up my T pass this semester to start driving. Despite the increase in cost, I cannot continue to spend 3-4 hours a day on public transportation.

    Like other commenters, it also infuriates me that I am paying the same amount to park at BU as those who are making far more than I am. My boss, who makes double my salary and lives exactly a mile from our office, drives to work every day. BU has SO many options if they really wanted to address the mess that is commuting in Boston: allow employees to work from home 1-2 days per week, set-up an internal carpool system, create a sliding scale for parking costs, don’t give parking passes to employees who live within a certain distance of campus (they already do this for students), or increase salaries to be competitive with other Boston higher education institutions.

    My office has lost over 10 people in the last year. There are a variety of issues at play here, but every single person mentioned commuting as one of their reasons for leaving. I appreciate BU Today starting a conversation around this, but I am confident that this, like so many other issues at BU, will fall on deaf ears.

  9. Thank you Megan Woolhouse, and BU Today, for this thought-provoking article. Hopefully your piece and the thoughtful comments from the BU community will encourage BU to revisit how these regressive fees are effecting the ENTIRE BU community.

    Boston University should not encourage the economic discrimination and marginalization of any employee population.

    Parents of young children, single parents, employees caring for elderly parents, or loved ones who are ill, need the flexibility that driving to work affords. Single working mothers who are sole providers and their children, will continue to suffer the most due to inherent socioeconomic inequalities. BU should not be contributing to the struggles of their employees, and employees that need to drive to work should not be shamed or financially penalized, for doing so.

    P.s. In addition to all of the invaluable suggestions above (sliding scale, remote work options, etc.), how about a shuttle to/from North Station?

    1. I think that the idea of shuttles – from both North and South Stations could be a great benefit, and I have previously asked the Parking & Transportation Department whether it could explore this option. I would strongly prefer to commute by public transportation, for many reasons. However, I would need to take so many various forms of transportation, which would complicate and further extend my commute, such that public transportation is not a viable option . However, a shuttle – perhaps with other area employers – might make commuting by public transportation a better alternative. I know many people who commute from my area to the Longwood Medical area, utilizing the LMA shuttles.

  10. One thing you should note in your reporting is that comparing BU parking permits to other paid monthly parking is not an apples to apples comparison. The story compared the pricing to the Van Ness Garage in Fenway at almost twice the yearly cost. However for that price the garage guarantees you a spot. BU parking only guarantees reserved spots to senior leadership. Otherwise the parking is a first-come “hope you find a spot” system. It’s not worth the same as a reserved guaranteed 24/7 spot to park.

    A sliding payment option for parking based on Salary and Distance from BU could be an option to reduce the number of high paid senior staff/faculty that live in Brookline and other nearby areas from driving. It would mean I would pay more, but I think that is fair considering parking is a limited resource.

    The other thought would be to start seriously considering moving some staff outside of Boston. Do all of our offices really need to be location on such prime real estate? As large companies abandon their office space along 95 or 495 to move into Seaport or Cambridge there is a lot of vacant office buildings in the suburbs. Satellite offices could be opened for certain departments and teams that don’t need to be on campus to handle IT work, or accounting, etc. If we sit in front of a computer does it really have to be a computer sitting on campus?

  11. What is the University doing to put pressure on the MBTA and Gov Baker to improve service? I’m lucky, I don’t live all that far away and I have multiple routes from home to campus. So when one route is an disaster (likely) I have another option. But we have others that aren’t as lucky and have to rely on one line/bus/rail and they don’t want to depend on a line that will most likely leave them high and dry so they drive. Get some pressure on them with all the Boston/Cambridge schools.

    Also, I think someone mentioned it, a sliding scale for employees that live in serviceable MBTA areas with (mostly) reliable service and the ability to use it should have to pay more for parking than an employee living in NH with absolutely no viable transit options. Dumping reserved spaces for everyone but car pools and disabled drivers would also help.

    Just boosting prices across the board is such a lazy noninnovative way to achieve the University’s green goals and is deaf to the needs and lacks understanding of the means of it’s employee population. Has the university ever looked into providing more shuttles that stop off in neighborhoods surrounding the university? I’d pay for that even over my T pass and I’m sure others would drop their spaces for it.

  12. Another minor change has been shown to reduce parking demand: charging parking at a reasonable daily rate rather than weekly/monthly/annually… if a commuter has already paid for monthly parking (or has already gotten the monthly public transit pass), there is no incentive to use a mix of commuter options, so go ahead, jump in the car. If one has to each day make the choice to shell out $8 for parking (the $40 weekly cost/5 days) vs. save that money by walking, biking, taking the T, carpooling, etc., every single day, there is an incentive to leave the car at home somedays, and psychology indicates that we often respond to that immediate incentive rather than the more abstract one of dropping the monthly cost. Right now the incentive is backwards– Red permit holders (who often also have MBTA passes) are charged a high daily rate (last year $17/day in Warren) for those days when they need flexibility. At that rate, if you need flexibility 2 days a week, you might as well give up on using public transit at all and drive every day.

    I think there was a recent NPR report that said that either Harvard or MIT (I can’t remember which and can’t find the story) reduced parking demand in one of their lots by 10% by making this change. This Seattle Times article gives examples of it working elsewhere too.

    This approach also rewards telecommuting where possible (e.g., stack meetings so one can WFH 2 days a week, saving both commuting time and $$).

  13. I appreciate and admire the university for incentivizing public transit, but unfortunately we’re caught in a perfect storm of rising rents and property values forcing people out of the city, and unreliable public transportation that would compromise our performance as employees.

    I often work nights and weekends to staff student programs and wonder how I could be effective at my job if I had to hop on a commuter rail train every day.

    Maybe rental properties could actually provide our community deals instead of above-market rates?

  14. I agree with what many other have said about the how unreliable the T is and how it is not a viable option for all and that does not seem to be taken into consideration at all.

    A couple of other points here:
    1) BU owns all (or most) of the property it offers for parking, so it is unfair to compare it to the Van Ness garage, which is a privately owned public garage. The parking office has referenced similar parking options in the past, but they alone set their prices for which the choice to charge thier employees to park on their land
    2) In sifting through older e-mails, as of Sept 2016, the weekly rate for a green day commuter pass was $29.90 per week. Starting in Stember of this year that rate will be $40 per week. An increase of over $10 a week and $500 a year in only a 3 year time period
    3) These significant increase happen in September, only 2 months after hourly paid employees see their 2-3% salary wage increase. Most folks in these position make less than 50k a year, so these increases amount to no raise or even a reduction in accumulated salary
    4) BU can talk all they want about the loss of spaces, but there are plenty of options they could explore. For one, allowing green permits to park on BU owned Cummington Mall (of course then the contractors would need to find somewhere else to park)
    5) Others have mentioned this, but BU is waaay behind other sectors when it comes to work from home capabilities and options. This is a great problem solver in terms of reduce the carbon footprint on campus, and in terms of commute, and paring rates could be charge per day in an associated fashion (i.e. $8 a day instead of $40 per week)
    6) How about shuttle to work options? I see the BU buses traveling in from the South Shore (Braintree i think?) to the city each morning on my way to work. if there were an option to park at another location outside of the city and take the BU Bus to work each morning I would defintely be interested in that.

    I consider myself a BU employee through retirement after the ZERO year of 2040, but if parking keeps increasing, with out Viable and well thought out alternatives, I’ll need to look elsewhere in the next few years, because it is not solving any problems

  15. Putting the higher costs of parking on one population of employees at the University is not the fair way to go. Some people have physical limitations and taking the T and walking long distances is not possible especially in winter. If there was a viable reliable public transportation option people would be more than willing. I personally have to pay $2000 a year for parking and knowing the increases will continue cutting into my salary in the future is disheartening and will create hardship. I would like to see options for working remotely 1-2 days per week embraced by the university as a whole. Technology can clearly support this and should be an option to reduce commuting into the city. Planning your work responsibilities to be effective and productive remotely is very doable. Flexibility and teamwork for productive meetings should also be doable. The rule always applies …..if something comes up that your physical presence is required in the office no questions asked you head into the office. You job responsibilities and production should not suffer.
    We need to come up with viable options for commuters who are unable to utilize public transportation and who want to help the environment. Please do not push a great cause that most people believe in and want to contribute in a positive way by rewarding one group and significantly punishing another. We need to think of options for both groups to contribute, we all believe in sustainability !!!!

  16. Increasing parking rates to reduce incentive to drive into work seems like a disingenuous move from the University, guised as a way to be greener. As BU owns its parking garages/lots/etc and has a fairly robust masterplan on how they intend to use their resources for construction projects, this foreseen shortage of parking is a problem of their own making.

    Neither the Kilachand Center nor that “stack of books” building had underground parking planned into it the way that Questrom and Student Village had.

    If you expect to maintain a top notch research institution with top notch—and happy—employees, don’t give your hard-working people a raw deal. Facilities and dining workers who work very early hours can’t benefit from public transportation. Hardworking people like Pedro keep odd hours to provide good programming for students. And as other commenters mentioned, salary increases clearly haven’t kept up with parking rates.

    Don’t hide behind being green, BU. Treat your employees right!

  17. I gave up using the T to commute to BU many years ago. Inconsistent service, and increased T parking fees, combined with the need for flexible work times, lead me to start driving to BU every weekday. The fact that BU charges its own employees to park in BU owned parking facilities boggles the minds of just about everyone I know.

    Even if BU paid 100% of MBTA passes it still wouldn’t be worth it to me due to the always inconsistent service, and the amount of time spent commuting. Driving the 17 miles from home to work takes about 1 hour. Using only public transportation, the bus to Red Line to Green Line commute would be closer to 1 1/2 hours each way. I could drive and park at the Red line station, but the T just tore down the Quincy Center Parking garage and has expressly stated it will not be rebuilt.

    I love the idea of parking costs being salary and distance based. Highly compensated employees and those who live very close to BU should pay more more to park, as they have more alternatives than those who live further away.

  18. I would like to see BU implement this idea from one of my colleagues: Create BU shuttle buses from North and South stations during the morning and evening commute. this way people can take the T but not have to walk or take additional trains all over Boston to get to BU (MED, CRC and FEN)

    Do these comments get reviewed and seriously discussed ? I would switch to taking the T if I could get a shuttle tpo my office

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