Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Transportation to the Pioneer Valley is expensive and inefficient

(Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian)

As an out-of-state student from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, my trips are characterized by experiences with the Peter Pan buses and trips to the airport, just like many other students. I have had terrible experiences using Peter Pan, and I know many students have had similar.

When I came to tour the University of Massachusetts, my mother and I were told that it was very easy to take the Peter Pan to Logan International Airport in Boston. We were also told that one could go to Bradley International Airport in Hartford. While of course it may seem that Bradley is just a short drive away or that one can just hop on the Peter Pan to Boston to get to Logan, both are actually very expensive in reality. Why is UMass so difficult and expensive to get to?

My trips usually begin very early in the morning. I have to catch the Peter Pan, which then drives to Springfield. In Springfield, sometimes I have a short layover and then I get on another bus to South Station in Boston. Once that two hour ride is over, I walk to the other end of South Station with my luggage and ride the Silver Line to Logan. The Silver Line takes about 20 to 30 minutes. Then, I arrive at the airport, usually two to three hours early. I then fly to one airport, usually Newark, where I wait another hour or two for my one hour flight to Pittsburgh. By the time I get home, I usually have been traveling for 13 or 14 hours. If I were to drive home from UMass, it would take me eight to nine hours.

Between the cost of the Peter Pan, which is around $60 roundtrip, the Silver Line ticket, which is $2.50 one way, and then the cost of the flight—which depends on what time of year I am flying—it adds up. The cost of flights fluctuate throughout the year, so Thanksgiving roundtrip flights are about $300 and Christmas break roundtrip flights are about $250. It depends on what time of year it is, so the price of flights does fluctuate, but connecting flights from Logan are relatively cheaper (usually about half the price). So, over the past three years, I have flown home for three Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks.

Of course, each trip’s prices fluctuate depending on the specific flight, if it is nonstop or direct, and what airline it is. But, if one does some simple math, with each Thanksgiving trip costing about $362.50 and each Christmas trip costing about $312.50, I have spent about (and most likely more than) $2,025 during my time at UMass on travel. This is a huge cost. This is about what I pay annually for my meal plan. This is in addition to my rising tuition as an out-of-state student.

So why don’t I fly out of Bradley? There are a couple things that stop many students from flying out of Bradley. Because it is such a small airport, even though it is closer, it is much more expensive than Logan. This is due to the cost to take a private van service to Bradley, which is $53 one-way plus gratuity, almost double the price of the Peter Pan for half the travel distance. Then, the price for a flight from Bradley to Pittsburgh is usually upward of $400 for a connecting flight and even more for a nonstop flight. So, if I were to fly out of Bradley, the costs would have exceeded $3000 over the past three years. I can’t even imagine the costs for students coming from other parts of the country and especially from other parts of the world.

Our community has a spectacular public transportation system with the Pioneer Valley Transportation Authority. That stands in stark contrast to the inefficient, expensive means of transportation out of the Pioneer Valley. Up until recently, one had to print out their Peter Pan ticket; mobile tickets were not accepted. Peter Pan does not offer refunds. I learned this the hard way, when I missed my Peter Pan bus home from spring break freshman year due to a delayed flight. Because all of the Peter Pan buses that day were booked, JetBlue had to pay for me to take a taxi back to campus. The transportation system is not only inefficient, but it is also behind the times and not customer friendly.

Why hasn’t the University or even the Commonwealth of Massachusetts made it easier to get to the Pioneer Valley? On the UMass International Programs Office’s website, they list all the different ways to get to UMass. The cheapest option is still Peter Pan, which doubles or triples the travel time to Boston. The other options are expensive, privately-owned shuttles. Students only have expensive and time-consuming options.

The Commonwealth does have rail services to parts of Western Massachusetts. There are stations in Holyoke, Northampton and Greenfield. But why not Amherst? Taxpayers in all of these cities pay for the MBTA, so why hasn’t the Commonwealth tried to extend its rail system more?

Many students, especially international students, are given limited options when it comes to transportation to campus. I know that we choose to come here, but there should be better options, even for in-state students. If UMass wants to encourage more students from outside of Massachusetts, UMass and the Pioneer Valley, it needs to step up in providing students with either better options or, at least, more transparency in transportation options when choosing this school. Out-of-state students pay so much to come here already and many are getting ripped off with the very high prices that result from the shuttle services and lengthy bus rides. While I know that I can’t ask the University to magically solve the problem, I do want to ask for more transparency surrounding transportation in and out of the Pioneer Valley so that students can make informed decisions surrounding their trips.

Emilia Beuger is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].

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  • J

    John aimoFeb 14, 2018 at 12:49 am

    It’s an intelligent choice to purchase a car, your overall costs are lower, you can either get a car used and purchase it with cash or get it financed and have a low to zero down payment

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable to point out the author’s privilege, she is complaining about public transportation not because she can’t afford a car but because she prefers it was more convenient and accommodating, that is the epitome of privilege to make complaints or demands about things other people have no choice about.

  • A

    AnonymousFeb 12, 2018 at 11:19 am

    I do agree with this article for the most part. Transportation is super expensive so I have to find other options to go home such as RideShare or find a friend who happens to go home. But in general, roundtrip ticket prices from Boston to the Pioneer valley gets close to $70. It is easy to tell someone to get a car and whatnot, but other external costs are involved too. Roundtrip tickets used to be $40 roundtrip (even $30), but within the past 3 years, that price have almost doubled.

    To respond to a previous comment, it is unreasonable to label someone as “privileged” for speaking about the cost. My family comes from a low-income family and we don’t always have the necessary expenses to easily pay for the rides, especially when I have to go home on a weekday when no one on RideShare is available. I am from Boston, so I can only imagine the troop that out-of-state students have to go through- spending a lot of time and money.

  • A

    AnnoyedFeb 9, 2018 at 11:46 am

    UMass has ride sharing groups. If transportation costs were such an issue for you, why would you choose to go somewhere where transportation would be an issue? That shows a lack of foresight that I don’t believe UMass should fix for you. Going home costs money… I think that should have been a consideration for you before you chose a school. What transparency do you request? All you have to do is google Peter Pan to discover your concerns.

  • P

    Personal ResponsibilityFeb 8, 2018 at 1:25 pm

    Where on earth do you think personal responsibility comes into play? You decided to attend an out of state college. Part of that means considering the costs. I know many students purposely arrange their housing so that they can stay for breaks and don’t go home for shorter breaks like Thanksgiving. Yes, it’s expensive. But you just need to figure it out. The school is not responsible for how you get there and no one tricked you into attending. You say the school needs more “transparency” about how to get there? How about you Google it?

  • E

    Ed CuttingFeb 8, 2018 at 12:28 pm

    Amherst used to have Amtrak it got moved to the shorter route via Northampton.
    I used to yake it to DC — far easier then flying. Trains have 120volt AC plugs and WiFi,you can do a lot of work on the train.

    Have you considered Amtrak to Pittsburg via NYC? It migjt be quicker.
    Or Amtrak to Philidelphia (3 hours) and somrone picking you up? That’d be $100, maybe less.

    The bikepath was the train to Boston, it was never rebuilt aftet the 1938 Hurricane.

  • J

    John aimoFeb 8, 2018 at 5:24 am

    Why don’t you just get a car? For one it’s far more convenient and if you need to take large trips, ultimately you will save money. You make it seem like students largely of a middle-class background are somehow ‘disadvantaged’, it’s very misleading and inaccurate.

    Even those who are poor, not only do they have cars, which you can buy cheaply a car, you can get a working, driving car for 1,000-2,000 dollars; they also get cars, including brand new cars financed.

    I guess maybe as a ‘privileged’ person you don’t realize how much of a necessity a car is and on your perch, you can just lecture on and complain about the public transportation system while the rest of the world has to accept it and either use it or get a car.