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About 700 Institute employees have signed up for free transit passes through the Institute for the month of September.

The free passes are part of a series of new commuting options being offered this year by MIT. Environmental impact and the growing MIT community are cited as reasons for the changes in commuting options, which include an increase in MBTA commuter rail subsidies and free transit passes for September for employees who park at MIT five days a week.

“By offering free passes for a month, maybe more people will take this option,” said John DiFava, director of facilities and security. A total of 683 employees who would otherwise drive have signed up this year for the free September pass, 12 of which have potentially signed up to get monthly T passes, according to Larry Brutti, operations manager of the Parking and Transportation Office.

Last year, there were around 3,200 MIT employees who were full-time drivers, Brutti said.

The new initiative also includes a discount of 50 percent on monthly T Passes for all zones.

Previously, monthly T passes were offered on a sliding scale subsidy according to the zones traveling. Creating a flat 50 percent off on all zones will hopefully attract more full time drivers to switch to transit, Brutti said.

Brutti said he also hopes this will highlight the occasional parking program on campus and off campus sites which allow commuters to park for $4 a day for up to 8 days in a month.

The changes will cost the Institute $70,000, all of which is coming out of the employee benefits fund.

However, for each commuter that switches over to public transit, the Institute could save $3,000. The Institute leases 900 parking spaces off campus for $3,000 a year. If approximately 23 daily commuters switched over to taking public transportation, the program would pay for itself, Brutti said.

The new program is also looking at allowing commuters to park at the Lincoln Lab site and Wellesley campus, and then take the shuttle to the main campus. The Parking and Transportation Office has secured 20 parking spaces at the Lincoln Laboratory site and hopes to get 10 satellite parking spots at Wellesley by September, Brutti said. This will provide commuters with access to the free shuttles to the main campus from those coming from the west.

According to the Parking and Transportation Web site, the number of parking spaces available is regulated by the City of Cambridge and the Clean Air Act of 1973, which allows for parking for no more than 36 percent of the commuting population.

These new incentives are being provided in order to cut down the carbon footprint of the MIT community as well as to accommodate the growth of the institute. “We want to be sensitive to the needs of the community and our carbon footprint,” DiFava said.

The Parking and Transportation Office is working on hiring a new commuting coordinator to work full time on the initiative. They are also working with the biking community to offer facilities for showers and lockers for those who bike to campus.

For more information, see http://web.mit.edu/facilities/transportation/.