Entries by Erin Thomassen

Problem: Overpriced Textbooks, Solution: Opensource Material

Last week, NBC news announced that textbooks prices have risen 1,041% since 1977, three times the rate of inflation according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As if tuition costs weren’t already exorbitant. For the 2014-2015 academic year, the average private four-year college tuition in Massachusetts was $34,643, which does not include the average room and board of $11,181. Even the UMass price-tag is a stretch for working-class families; UMass Amherst, for example, estimates 2015-2016 tuition fees at $14,171. Surprisingly, textbook price increases have outpaced even the 559% increase in college tuition and fees over the past three decades. Even more problematic is that textbook prices, unlike tuition, are not factored into the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) calculated by the U.S. Department […]

Cash-free, Conductor-free Trains

In 2012, the MBTA introduced the mTicket app that allows users to purchase train tickets through their mobile devices and display their ticket on their screen as conductors make their rounds. Pioneer recognized the app in its 2014 Better Government Awards for “putting to good use technological infrastructure that is already in place” to save “both the individual riders and the Commonwealth money.” The next step for the MBTA may be converting to purely electronic ticketing. Does this mean that conductors could be rendered obsolete? If the MBTA wanted to downsize on conductors, it could follow the honor-code system tested in California, or it could try something new: requiring riders to purchase a mobile ticket or Charlie Card. Charlie Cards and mobile tickets […]

Extend Private Transportation Innovation to the Suburbs

This past year, Boston and Bridj celebrated a transportation innovation victory: a successful partnership between public officials and a private data-driven bus enterprise. Bridj, a “smart” bus line, bases its route on electronically communicated customer needs. Bridj experienced initial pushback from the Cambridge City Council, which called its early route maps “unacceptable.” The Council was concerned that the private bus system would interfere with and infringe upon the existing public bus and taxi system. However, Bridj aimed not to steal customers away from existing businesses, but to fill a gap left open by existing transportation systems. By offering a shuttle system which considers its customer’s travel needs, Bridj was the bridge between private and public transportation. It introduced a new […]