FSU reintroduced its taxi voucher program this semester, providing resident students with an alternative to MetroWest Regional Transit Authority (MWRTA) and RamTram shuttle services.
Claire Ostrander, assistant director of Student Involvement & Leadership Development, explained how the system works. “We have an agreement with JFK Taxi, and we go to different locations around the Framingham/Natick area,” said Ostrander. “Students pay for the vouchers, and then the additional cost of the ride, the university subsidizes and picks up.”
Kevin Long, a senior communication arts major and student transportation center manager, said, “The cost up front is a bit steep ($25 for five taxi vouchers), but if you think about the cost, it’s a worthy option that saves the student a ton of money when compared with [the prices of] an actual taxi cab.”
“It’s even more of a savings when you factor in the fact that you can have a group of friends go with you,” added Long. “If you split that ride five ways, that is only $1 per way per person.”
Terri Deluise, a senior psychology major, said, “Although I have not used taxi vouchers in a couple of years, I remember them being useful and cost effective,” said Deluise. “The only thing about the taxis in general was that you had to call way ahead of time if you were on a timetable to get somewhere.”
The taxi voucher program was suspended during the 2012 – 2013 academic year, following the spring 2012 introduction of the RamTram service.
“The thinking was that the [transportation] service would be provided free to students through the RamTram,” said Ostrander. “So last year, we did not enter an agreement with the taxi company.”
According to Ostrander, the taxi vouchers “give students another option during the day if the MWRTA schedule doesn’t fit with their needs to get off campus,” said Ostrander.
Ostrander added that “it [the taxi voucher program] definitely offers something for those hours that the RamTram service isn’t in use … but I don’t think it will get used the way it did before the RamTram [was introduced].”
RamTram offers shuttle service to various locations along Route 9, including Target, Natick Mall, Shoppers World, Framingham Train Station, CVS and Stop & Shop. Service begins at 4:15 p.m. on weekdays and 12:00 p.m. on weekends, and continues until 12:00 a.m. every day except Sunday, during which service runs until 10:00 p.m. Shuttles are also available for dispatch service.
Ostrander said one of the issues the RamTram faces is staying on schedule. She explained that “a full student staff drives the RamTram, so if someone’s coming to their shift after class and their class was delayed, the transition of shift-to-shift is sometimes tricky. But for the most part, they [the shuttles] run close to schedule.”
Carly Williams, a junior psychology major, was very pleased with the RamTram service. “It’s really useful. I think they’ve really opened going down to the mall,” said Williams.
Zach Benard, a sophomore communication arts major, agreed with Williams. “It’s definitely improved since last year. It’s available more, and it doesn’t seem to have as many problems. I think it’s a good system right now.”
Lauren Carlson, a senior fashion major, said that “it still has a few kinks to be worked out. It’s still not perfect. But we are pretty lucky because they fill it to the brim for us so that we can all get on.”
Tyler Terrasi, a junior communications major, has concerns with the RamTram shuttle route. “The RamTram doesn’t go to the train station very often. As someone with a visual impairment, I’d like an alternative, because I rely on public transportation to get me places.”
Starting this semester, the RamTram shuttle route no longer includes the West Natick Train Station, instead offering transportation to the Framingham Train Station. Additionally, RamTram shuttles only service the train station after 8:00 p.m. to avoid conflict with MWRTA shuttles.
Sara White, director of marketing and communications at MWRTA, explained that competing transportation schedules was not the only reason for this change. “The Framingham Train Station is not only an easier station to get to from FSU,” said White, “but the demand to go to the West Natick Train Station can be easily fulfilled by the MWRTA.”
According to White, “Both transportation options balance one another and attempt to cover what the other cannot.” She said that RamTram service runs later in the day than MWRTA service, while MWRTA offers a wider variety of destinations. (Information on MWRTA’s shuttle routes can be found at www.mwrta.com).
White said there are plans to add GPS systems to RamTram shuttles, which will allow real-time tracking of shuttles on any mobile device. “Once this is in place, students will be able to see the estimated wait time for the next available RamTram.”
White encourages students to utilize public transportation for internships. She noted that the MWRTA offers preloaded “Charlie Cards” for students who plan on using MWRTA services to get to and from internship sites.