Youth Rider Profile: Kenisha Allen, REEP Youth Organizer

Youth Rider Profile: Kenisha Allen, REEP Youth Organizer

Testimony to the MBTA Board of Directors at their March meeting

Kenni testifying at a MBTA hearing

Hey everyone! I’m Kenni and I’m the Work Superhero of the Youth Justice League, and I represent the two-thirds of Boston’s youth population who ride the T every day. The MBTA is a lifeline for youth, because of our age and income we rely on it for everything in our lives.

Now let’s take a minute to think about what transit-dependent means. It means I count on the T to get around. It means we need the T, but right now, riding the T costs us a fortune we just don’t have. There has to be a better way for the T to serve youth riders.

Unlike many youth, I have a job: I’m a youth organizer at the Roxbury Environmental Empowerment Project. I make about $111 a week before taxes. My phone bill is $50, I need to help my family with the bills, and then I have to pay for transportation to go to school and work…at this point I’m not adding, I’m subtracting.

Many youth don’t even have jobs—how do they get where they need to go? Think about the struggles of people who are forced to walk in the cold cause they can’t afford it. Every time the fare goes up, it just gets harder and harder for us to get around.

I remember when it was 75 cents to get on the bus—now the bus is $2.00, the train is $2.00 and the trolley is $2.50. I spend an average of $30 every week traveling to and from school and work. That’s one quarter of my paycheck. Could you imagine giving one-fourth of your check to the T? Could YOU afford that?

Last Saturday, I was getting ready to head to work to plan for this event. I realized I didn’t have the funds to get to work. If I can’t get to work, I can’t make money. I shouldn’t have to choose if I want to eat this week or be able to get to work and school—I have the right to both. But that is what I’m dealing with right now. There have been times I was stranded in Dudley and no one would let me on the bus due to me not having the fare. I then proceeded to walk home. I live all the way in Mattapan.

I take the 28 to Dudley, then the 15 from Dudley to Kane Square to get to school. Then I take the 15 back to Dudley to go to work, then after work I take the 28 home.

I don’t have access to an M5 Student Pass where I go to school. I have to pay in order to get around, but whenever I can’t afford it, my future is put on hold and put at risk. I know you see my superhero costume—don’t let the cape fool you. I can’t fly. I’m human and I need the T.

So please, for the sake of my future, and the youth that surround me here and all over the region with the same struggles, give us a break—give us one less thing to worry about. I don’t want to wake up wondering how I’m going to get to school or how I’m going to get to work. I want you all to understand my story and realize I’m not the only one. Don’t be selfish. Are you prepared to give every youth who rides the T a ride to work or school every day? I don’t think so. So let’s be reasonable and affordable, with a $10 monthly Youth Pass that’s going to make me and thousands of other youth T riders have one less worry in life. Let’s live worry free, happily riding the T.