Youth win weekends for Student Pass holders!

March 27, 2014

This fall, Student Passes will be valid on the weekends!

This week, our Youth Affordabili(T) Coalition (YAC) won a major victory when the MBTA announced that come fall, schools and Student Pass holders will now be able to purchase a seven-day pass for the price of a five-day pass.

Removing the weekend restriction on Student Monthly Passes has been a central demand of YAC over the past year. About 21,000 middle and high school students in the Boston Public Schools (BPS) and the MBTA service area use the five-day pass and are forced to pay fares for weekend travel.

Young people brought this demand to lift the weekend restriction to the General Manager and her staff repeatedly over the past year. This month, YAC members testified on the need to protect students from the fare hike at the MassDOT Board meeting and held a spirited march for a Youth Pass through downtown Boston.

These changes were unveiled as part of the MBTA’s proposed fare hike plan for July 1. In 2013, work by YAC and our partners for affordable public transit helped put an end to dramatic, double-digit hikes by introducing a fare increase cap of no more than five percent every two years.

While most fares will jump about five percent this year, the recent $1 rollback on The Ride will remain untouched, thanks to the sustained, powerful organizing by Massachusetts Senior Action Coalition (MSAC). Students are not exempt from the fare hike, as the five-day Student Pass will cost a dollar more, from $25 to $26—but crucially, the price of the seven-day pass falls from $28 to $26, making the more inclusive pass the common sense choice for student mobility.

This tremendous youth-led victory will give 25,000 students in the 2014 to 2015 academic year weekend access to trains and buses for school events, jobs, medical appointments, family obligations, sports, arts, cultural activities and more.

“I won’t have to miss work on Saturdays,” said YAC leader Kenisha Allen. “This might be a minor change for the MBTA, but it’s a big step for our opportunities.”

Congratulations to the youth of REEP, Boston-area Youth Organizing Project (BYOP), Boston Student Advisory Council (BSAC)/Youth On Board, Bikes Not Bombs, Chelsea Collaborative ECO, Chinese Youth Initiative (CYI) of Chinese Progressive Association (CPA), Dorchester Bay Youth Force, Inquilinos Boricuas en Accion (IBA), Youth Justice Power Union (YJPU) and more for this far-reaching milestone!

We also want to send a huge shout out and thank you to our partners in the Public Transit-Public Good Campaign, and our deep appreciations to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and BPS Superintendent John McDonough for supporting this effort.

One step within a much larger campaign:

Luis testifying before the MassDOT board earlier this month

Our Roxbury Environmental Empowerment Project (REEP) and partners have been fighting for a Youth Pass since 2007 through the Youth Way on the MBTA campaign and YAC, a coalition run by REEP.

The Youth Pass would have no day or time restrictions, cost $10 per month and be available to all young people between the ages of 12 to 21. This pass is our solution to the youth rider affordability crisis in which one-third of Boston youth regularly miss out on opportunities because of unaffordable fares.

“It’s nice to see the T do something after seven years,” said Luis Navarro, a YAC leader since 2012. “Just recently they were saying this isn’t possible. We’re hoping the shift means Secretary of Transportation Richard Davey will finally step up and address the fact that youth in general can’t afford to ride.”

We are calling on the MBTA to continue opening transportation access by supporting the implementation of the Youth Pass, starting with a pilot in 2014. In recent weeks, YAC has collected thousands of petition signatures in support of this effort, testified at the MassDOT Board of Directors meeting and staged a “die-in” to represent the opportunities lost while we wait for the MBTA to act. Please sign and share the petition!

Public transportation is crucial to providing opportunities for leadership and empowerment in youth


More on the fare hike and Student Pass change:

YAC rallies for affordable public transportation at the State House

Since 2012, the MBTA has offered two versions of the Student Monthly LinkPass. One version, the M-5, cost $25 per month and was only valid Monday through Friday. A second version, the M-7, cost $28 per month and could be used every day.

About 95 percent of schools and students buying Student Passes have opted for the cheaper M-5, including BPS, which purchases around 16,000 passes a month. In the coming school year, both M-5 and M-7 passes will cost $26—the M-5 price will rise about five percent and the M-7 price will drop. This change effectively allows BPS and other schools in the MBTA region to switch to the unrestricted M-7 pass.

The proposed $1 increase to M-5 Student Passes is the fifth hike to student fares in 12 years, a cumulative increase of 160 percent. The rate of increase is nearly the highest of any fare category and has outpaced inflation by nearly 500 percent. With two-thirds of youth unemployed and nearly all Boston youth transit-dependent, these increases target one of the T’s most vulnerable population of riders.

While the MBTA is unlikely to make significant changes to its current proposal, the fare hike will be the subject of public hearings in April. Stay tuned for opportunities to weigh in and support YAC’s continued push for a Youth Pass.

Campaign milestones:

YAC is currently circulating petitions for an MBTA Youth Pass and have more than 2,500 signatures online and on paper. Please add your name to our online petition today!

Big Dig debt crushes riders!

Under pressure from YAC and the Public Transit Public Good Coalition, the state passes legislation to bring new funding to public transportation and cap fare hikes. The bill marks the first time legislators take MBTA funding seriously since Forward Funding was passed in 2000, when $3.5 billion of Big Dig mitigation debt was placed on the T. The Big Dig debt caused a downward spiral of fare hikes and service cuts, and led to the MBTA’s current $9 billion debt problem. The T receives approximately $150 million for operations each year through the new legislation and will begin to pay down the debt in 2015.

In opposition to the MBTA’s draconian proposal for massive fare hikes and service cuts, YAC organizes major protests at public hearings, a March for Opportuni(T) with nearly 1,000 youth, and a 24-hour State House Vigil. Our campaign, alongside the T Riders Union (TRU), Massachusetts Senior Action Coalition (MSAC), On the Move, Public Transit-Public Good Coalition and other partners, wins major concessions from the MBTA. A proposed 43 percent general fare hike and 100 percent hike on student fares is lowered to 23 percent, and the M-7 Student Pass is created.

Additionally, all Student Passes are now valid for an entire day, from the start of service until the last bus and train. This means young people are no longer being kicked off the MBTA at an arbitrary cut-off time, increasing safety and accessibility.

 Youth riders, the affordability crisis and the Youth Pass solution

We published the “Opportuni(T)” report on “Youth Riders, the Affordability Crisis, and the Youth Pass Solution.” After surveying over 4,000 youth T riders, the report showed that nearly one-third of youth are priced out of the T and regularly blocked from access opportunities like school, jobs, healthcare, arts and culture.

At the first ever Youth Riders Banquet, former General Manager Richard Davey, who is now the Secretary of Transportation, committed to create a pilot Youth Pass program if we could help find revenue to finance the proposal.

We win a three-hour Student Pass extension, making the pass valid through 11:00 p.m. instead of only 8:00 p.m. The extension prevents thousands of teens from getting stranded after work and extra-curriculars. Then-Secretary James Aloisi also agrees to research implementation of the Youth Pass and meet regularly with the campaign.

In 1999, youth from the Boston-area Youth Organizing Project first took on transit access and affordability, winning the first extension of the Student Monthly Pass from a 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. shutoff.

Youth Way leaders present the Youth Pass and other transportation priorities to the MBTA Board for the first time.

Youth Way on the MBTA!

Boston-area Youth Organizing Project (BYOP) launches the Youth Way on the MBTA campaign. The campaign identifies several key problems for youth T riders, including affordability, overcrowded and infrequent buses, safety and respect from Transit Police. REEP and the T Riders Union join the campaign several months later.