Cambridge Hops on the M7 Train

Jeremiah Barron, Around School Editor

It’s September 6th, the final bell rings, and students flood out of their classrooms and into the main stairwell, only to come to a stop. The stairs are clogged by the hundreds of students lined up for a highly coveted item: the M7 Charlie Card. Prized for granting free access to all MBTA trains and buses, the M7 has been exclusive to students that qualified for free/reduced lunch in the past. This year, all CRLS students are eligible for an M7 T-Pass. This raises the question: why have these once rare cards become so readily available, and who is behind this change?

The Cambridge Youth Council (CYC), a student-occupied sub-committee of the Family Policy Council, has spent the past school year fighting for this change. Irene Hill ʼ23, a member of the CYC, told the Register Forum that the push began after the pandemic. An increase in mobility caused the CYC to “realize how much the price of transportation was creating a financial strain for many of [Cambridge’s] families.” The problem of transportation inequality stems from the “misconception that most Cambridge residents are well off, considering the high cost of living,” explains Mohammad Jihad ʼ24, also a member of the Council.

Neither students nor families will have to face the financial and academic repercussions of expensive transportation

Furthermore, Hill explains that “[the] T is expensive. Families whose students take the T to and from school … pay an estimated $396 per year per child.” On top of this, Hill points out that the “lack of transportation equity affects a student’s attendance, which directly influences a student’s ability to academically succeed, make social connections, and feel included in the Rindge community.”
Hill tells the Register Forum that the income requirement for M7s was a flawed system, as a two income household in Massachusetts making minimum wage would earn too much to qualify for an M7. Until the CYC intervened in 2018, CRLS provided no M7s, says Jihad.
Cambridge is not the first city to remove the income requirement on Charlie cards. Urbana Barua ʼ25, another member of the CYC, told the Register Forum that the free T-pass “program has already been instituted in cities such as Somerville and Boston … so we thought, ‘Why not Cambridge?’”
By September 7th, over half of Rindge’s student body had received an M7 T-card. That’s over 1100 families that no longer have to worry about transportation to and from school. M7s have been so popular that on the third day of distribution, Principal Smith informed the community that Rindge had temporarily run out of the cards.
Thanks to the CYC, neither students nor families will have to face the financial and academic repercussions of expensive transportation. No student should be penalized for not being able to afford transportation to school, a place they are federally required to attend. Cambridge has had more than enough money to fund this project for the past several years. As such, it is relieving to see the city’s budget shift to benefit students, and given that the school ran out of their supply of M7s during distribution, this policy has clearly been welcomed with open arms by the CRLS community.

This piece also appears in our September 2022 print edition.