Students Rally At MassDOT for Better MBTA Funding Plan

Swarms of student activists, some dressed as superheroes, took their protest straight to elected officials.

MBTA Protest

Photo by Steve Annear

Groups of Boston students fed up with fare increases and talks of possible cuts to MBTA bus and train service stormed the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s headquarters on Wednesday, asking officials to implement an affordable plan for young riders, while at the same time maintaining critical services for all passengers.

Dressed as superheroes with names like “Mobili-T,” “Affordabili-T,” and “Accountibili-T,” hoping to save the ailing transportation system, members of several activist groups armed with megaphones and banners converged on Boston Common by the Boylston Station Green Line stop and prepared to lodge complaints with state officials.

“The T is the lifeline for youth in this city. I believe MassDOT should fight for the Youth Pass because the youth are a critical rider group who depend on the T to go to school and SAT prep, to work, [and] to thrive by getting to health appointments, and to contribute by getting involved in extracurricular like sports … and after school programs,” 18-year-old Stanley Gourgue said during the rally.

Gourgue and other student activists are recommending the MBTA implement a more affordable pass plan for students between the ages of 12 and 21, for $10 a month, something T officials have shot down in the past due to cost and the potential for lost revenue. Currently, students ride the T for 50 percent off the price of standard T fares and are eligible for a Monday through Friday pass for $25 per month as well as seven-day pass for $28 per month. Gourgue says if prices to ride the T increase, however, some students in Boston who rely on the system will be forced to choose between their jobs and going to school due to lack of affordability. “It’s hard when you have to spend your paycheck on a monthly pass. You are giving your entire check to the T just to get to where you need to go.”

The rally was comprised of members from the Youth Affordabili-T Coalition, the Chinese Youth Initiative, the Boston Area Youth Organizing Project, and Alternatives for Community and Environment.

The groups also demanded the transportation officials consider a tiered fare structure as well as rider and worker votes on all transit authority boards, such as MassDOT. Members said in a statement that the MBTA needs a better revenue plan than a $500 million option floated by the Legislature recently.

On April 2, members of the Senate and House of Representatives released a joint proposal to help fund statewide transportation. The proposal would put costs on the backs of drivers by increasing the gas tax, and add a $1 fee to the price of tobacco products in order to raise revenue. The same day that the idea was presented to the public, similar transportation advocacy groups denounced the plan, saying it wouldn’t fix the larger problem in the Commonwealth.

The youth groups on Boston Common Wednesday agreed that the state needed a better plan. “We are calling on the MBTA and the legislature to support equity now,” the group said, adding that the T should steer clear of future fare hikes and service cuts.

Photo by Steve Annear

Photo by Steve Annear