Youth Pass sit-in participants arrested, MassDOT blocks youth from public meeting

July 7, 2014

Sitting in the hallway outside Davey's office

On June 9, 21 youth and supporters were arrested at the office of Transportation Secretary Richard Davey after holding a sit-in for an MBTA Youth Pass. After repeated delay tactics from MassDOT and MBTA officials, and receiving no response a full month after delivering our Open Letter [pdf], nearly 40 youth and supporters from our Youth Affordabili(T) Coalition (YAC) gathered in Secretary Davey’s office, asking him to fulfill his promise to implement a pilot program for the pass.

When he refused to speak with us, we sat down and announced that we would wait for his response. MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott visited to speak with us, but media were not allowed to enter the Transportation Building due to “capacity issues.” Outside, supporters rallied throughout the day and well into the evening, when the 21 people in our group who stayed were arrested.

21 youth and supporters were arrested

Three years ago, then-MBTA General Manager Richard Davey agreed to implement a Youth Pass if we could meet two conditions: pulling the MBTA out of its dire financial situation and finding sustainable funding for the program. Young people came back with solutions: In 2012 and 2013, YAC was a leader in a successful campaign that pushed the state to pass legislation that sends additional funding to the MBTA—an average of $150 million each year [pdf] from 2014 through 2019. We also drafted a plan for a University Pass, which would generate more than enough revenue to cover a Youth Pass by distributing discounted passes to local college students. Together with the Public Transit-Public Good campaign, we supported college students to begin organizing for the University Pass on their campuses.

However, Secretary Davey’s decision to have young people arrested instead of working with us to provide a pathway to opportunity exacerbates a crisis where youth continue to miss school, work, extracurricular activities, doctor’s appointments, SAT prep classes, GED classes and more, due to unaffordable MBTA fares. Every day, countless young people are losing chances to learn, grow, succeed and give back to our communities.

Crowd outside rallies as people inside are arrested

Just one week after the Sit-in for Opportuni(T), 50 YAC members and supporters were barred from testifying at a public MassDOT Board of Directors meeting due to “capacity issues,” despite advance notice that we planned on attending with a large group.

Attendees were instructed to wait until 12:45 p.m. to sign in on the public testimony log, leaving just 15 minutes to get through building security procedures before the meeting began at 1:00. By the time we were able to sign in, MassDOT claimed the room was full and implemented a “one person out, one person in” policy.

As soon as our first YAC members were able to enter the room, the Board closed the public comment period, the first section of the meeting. At this time, there were more than a dozen empty seats in the boardroom. Of the 25 supporters who signed up to testify, only three were permitted to speak. This is the first time we’ve witnessed such stringent measures used to block access to a public MassDOT meeting.

When we made it into the hearing, the Board closed the public comment period

YAC was joined by SEIU Locals BJ32 and 615, who testified against the firing of nearly 100 MBTA cleaning service employees—one-third of the workforce—and stood in solidarity to support the Youth Pass. YAC and SEIU members who were not allowed into the meeting rallied boisterously outside, resulting in clearly audible chants throughout the meeting, including during the General Manager and Transportation Secretary’s reports to the board.

A huge thank you to everyone who called, emailed, tweeted, rallied, donated, supported and sat-in with us in the past few weeks. All 21 people arrested were dismissed without charges. We are meeting with Secretary Davey and General Manager Scott and will keep you updated as the campaign progresses.

To support the campaign for a Youth Pass:

  • 3) On social media, let people know why you support the #YouthPass, share news about the campaign and sign the petition urging the MBTA and its Board of Directors to save cleaning workers’ jobs.