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Incoming freshmen, from left, Ruby Nguyen, Cathy Huynh and Francesca Louis-Jean catch the Lowell MBTA commuter rail back to Boston after a visit to campus this summer.
September 2, 2018

UMass Lowell students now ride free on commuter rail

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  • Lowell
Pilot program provides UML community with free service on Lowell-to-Boston line

Students, faculty and staff will soon have another way to commute to campus for free — and another great reason to leave their cars at home — thanks to a new collaboration between the university and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA).

Starting this fall, members of the UML community can ride the MBTA’s Lowell commuter rail line free of charge. The line services the towns of Billerica, Wilmington, Woburn, Winchester and West Medford en route to Boston’s North Station.

The pilot program is the first of its kind for the MBTA Commuter Rail, and officials hope to have the program implemented by late September.

In a phased approach, UML students and employees will be notified throughout September as to when they can download the MBTA mTicket app from the Apple App Store or Google Play, and then create an account with their student.uml.edu or uml.edu email address. Using their account, riders can then access their free single-ride electronic ticket whenever they take the Lowell train. University community members will also receive an email asking them to promptly complete an important survey to help guide the pilot program.

Because current technology only permits new accounts to be uploaded to the MBTA once a week, university officials encourage users to sign up as soon as possible to avoid any delays that would affect their personal travel schedules. More information can be found at uml.edu/mbta.

“We’re very excited to be introducing this free service to the university community and expanding our regional transportation program,” says Senior Director of Administrative & Environmental & Emergency Management Tom Miliano, who worked with Executive Director of Administrative Services, EEM Rich Lemoine on the agreement with the MBTA.

In addition to making it easier for commuter students and university employees to reach campus, the program gives residential students a free and convenient way to travel to Boston for co-op jobs and internships, or maybe just for a day in the city.

The program also supports a key goal of the university’s Climate Action Plan: the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the reliance on single-occupancy vehicles driving to and from campus.

“By working to reduce the number of cars on our streets and in our parking lots, we cut down on congestion and create a more environmentally friendly campus and community,” says Lemoine, who adds that the “innovative regional transportation partnership provides another great way to eliminate the expense of taking a car to campus.”

Miliano says the university will collect ridership data during the program’s pilot phase. The data will help guide program development, with the expectation that the service will continue into 2019 and beyond.

“This partnership seeks to provide an additional transportation benefit to the UMass Lowell community, reduce greenhouse gases and attract new riders to the MBTA’s Commuter Rail network,” says MBTA General Manager Luis Manuel Ramírez.  “We’re excited to launch this pilot and we look forward to studying the results of this initiative.”

The Lowell commuter rail line runs out of Gallagher Terminal, which students and employees can get to for free by LRTA bus (Route 6) or, when the LRTA buses are not running, by the university-operated River Hawk Roadster shuttle bus. There is also a parking garage at the terminal, which is undergoing a $2.5 million lobby renovation that will add 900 square feet in space, a new ticket office, new windows and new LED lighting.

On a recent Friday afternoon, three incoming freshmen – Francesca Louis-Jean, Cathy Huynh and Ruby Nguyen – were boarding the train at Gallagher Terminal and heading home to Boston after visiting campus. The students, all graduates of Snowden International School in Boston, were thrilled to hear about the upcoming free service.

“I’ll definitely be taking advantage of that,” Louis-Jean said as she high-fived Huynh and boarded the train.
 

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