What Public Transportation Pass Is Right for You?

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The subway map might look complicated, but choosing your subway pass doesn't have to be!

The subway map might look complicated, but choosing your subway pass doesn’t have to be!

Let me start off by saying that the city of London has the best transportation in the world.

I studied abroad there for a semester, would often take the tube (i.e., the subway), and fell in love with it because:

  • You always knew exactly when the train was coming, and it was always on time.
  • There were comfy seats with plenty of standing room.
  • If the train ever stopped in the middle of the tunnel, they apologized within 20 seconds.

However, what I didn’t love about the underground was the price.

***

As you know, England is incredibly expensive, and I had to keep track of my tube budget. Here in Boston, (where they don’t even tell you to mind the gap), it’s the same deal. I help manage my expenses by considering distance, cost, frequency of use, and where I go to school. Keeping these things in mind can help you, too.

(Always check with your city for rates, as every place is a little different. But in general, most places have these basic options.)

TOP IT UP

If you live in the city and use public transportation often, but not always, the easiest thing to do is pay-as-you-go. Maybe you put $20 on your pass, or maybe you just “top up youroyster card!” (as they say back in London) every time you hop on for a ride. (Just make sure you have money on you.)

This is what I did while I was living on campus. I would walk to all my classes since they were right there, and when I needed to go home or explore some part of Boston, I would just put money on my subway pass.

If you find that you’re topping up too often, consider the next options.

THE WEEKLY OR 7-DAY PASS

Exactly how it sounds, this pass is good for a week after you purchase it. I find this type of pass particularly useful when I’m visiting a new city for about a week and need to use public transportation.

How do you know if you need a weekly? Make a budget equal to how much it costs for a weekly pass. If you find that you stay below that amount, stick with paying as you go. But if you find yourself going way over budget, it’s time to consider the monthly.

THE MONTHLY

For serious commuters. Consider investing in the monthly pass if your whole schedule starts with the train schedule—and essentially depends on it.

I have a pass for the commuter rail (the train that branches outside the city and into the suburbs), which is also good for the subway and bus.

I love the monthly because it just makes things easier. I know I can hop on any subway or city bus without worrying about paying—just show my pass like an ID badge, get a littlenod from the driver, and be on my way.  However, only buy it if you need it. It is expensive (especially for a commuter-type train), but in the long run, it saves me a lot. Do the math.

THE STUDENT PASS

Many schools’ parking and transportation offices offer student discounts. Check it out to see what works best for you. I get an 11% discount. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but it can add up over the time.

My school offers a 4-month package (for the semester) that saves me $24 each month. Might seem like nothing, but $24 multiplied by the 9 months I’m in school is just over $200. Thanks, student discount!

Finding the right transportation pass for you is all a matter of considering your options and finding the right balance with your budget. After that, all you have to do is make sure you stand away from the doors and move all the way into the train. (And please mind the gap between the train and the platform. Just kidding—but not really.)

What experiences have you had with public transportation passes? Is it something you think about? Let us know in the comments! 

(Photo: tfl.co.uk) 

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