On Wednesday afternoon, students and youth organizers from across Boston marched on the Massachusetts Transit Building to demand a youth pass.
A mass of protestors built from the Youth Affordabilit(T) Coalition (YAC), Alternatives for Community & Environment (ACE), the Boston Youth Organizing Project, and Youth on Board gathered at the Park St. T stop at 3:30 p.m. The crowd began marching at about 4 p.m., flowing down the sidewalks following leaders in orange traffic vests. Chant leaders with megaphones created riffs off of classic protest chants like, “When transit fares are under attack what do we do?”
“Fight back!” cheered protestors.
Unlike many youth-organized protests, the marchers were well versed in why they were on the streets that day.
“The bus passes only work 5 days a week and stop at 11 p.m.,” said Esmeralda Sosa, a 15 year old at Urban Science Academy in West Roxbury. “If I’m out [late], I can’t get home.”
Currently, the MBTA offers a Student Pass that allows students in middle school and high school to ride the for half price. The pass costs $25 a month and, as Sosa said, is valid Mondays through Fridays. Students can also pay $28 a month for a 7-day-pass, but many protestors argued that the price is too high.
Marcus Wade, a junior at Dorchester Academy, said that sometimes, he doesn’t have money to get to work and school.
“If I had a youth pass, I’d be able to get to school and work on time, and I’d be able to save money for something more useful, instead of using it on the bus.”
The Youth Pass Wade mentioned is the current issue in question. And according to protestors, it’s been in question for quite some time.
“It’s been 8 years, when are you going to stop ignoring us?” protesters called outside the Transit Building. The leaders of the march claim that transit officials have promised a $10 drop for the past 8 years, but that officials are pushing off the fare reduction for another 8 years. By that time, the students who would be affected won’t even be in the age bracket anymore. Riders believe this is too long, and want change now.
The Youth Pass that the YAC has proposed would cost a mere $10 a month for youth between the ages of 12 and 21—and more importantly, it would not be limited to students. The pass would be accepted at all hours and on the weekends, which matters a great deal to youth across Boston.
“We’ve seen a few acts of faith to address the youth crisis and protect students in fare increases,” said Lee Matsueda, the political director of ACE. Matsueda believes that the Youth Pass would actually raise revenue for the MBTA, not cause the Authority to lose money. He cited the youth pass program instated in Chicago and estimated that a youth pass would bring close to $50 billion a year in additional revenue from the student population.
Although the protest turned out a solid crowd, the rain seemed to deter protestors as the afternoon wore on. Organizers planned for protestors to stage a “die-in” outside the transit building, but upon their cue, “Don’t drop the ball!” only around half the protestors dropped to the ground. The other half stood in the drizzling rain and watched, reluctantly kneeling as the organizers chanted.
In the past however, the YAC has made progress following their meetings with transit officials. The organization has gained ground in reducing the fare hikes from the MBTA, but is still waiting for the youth pass they seek.
Adanarys Barragan, a 21 year old, explained her need for the youth pass simply.
“I’ve got a hole in my pocket,” Barragan said. “Youth don’t have jobs and we can’t get on the train. We can’t go to school, we can’t go to doctors appointments, and we can’t go home.”