Students Plan to Stage Protest at MassDOT Headquarters

They're calling on the T to implement a youth pass, making it more affordable for them to get around.

Photo by Steve Annear

Photo by Steve Annear

For nearly a decade, students have been calling for a cheaper MBTA pass to help them get around the city. And like they’ve done so many times before, they’re bringing their message directly to the people in charge.

On Wednesday, during the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s monthly board meeting, members of the Youth Affordabilit(T) Coalition, or YAC, an amalgamation of youth organizations founded by the Youth Way on the MBTA campaign in 2012, will show up to demand a special subway and bus pass for riders between the ages of 12 and 21.

“Youth depend on the T to get to school, work, health care, after-school tutoring, arts, sports, college prep, and more. The T is a lifeline for Boston-area youth. We need a Youth Pass,” organizers said in a statement.

What YAC protesters want is a $10 monthly pass that will help them make transit trips without breaking the bank. Students can currently purchase a pass for $28, less than half the cost of a regular monthly LinkPass, but organizers said that’s too much, and it’s likely to see an increase in the coming years.

They’ll let this message be heard by showing up at the MassDOT meeting at 1 p.m. and delivering both testimony and a petition calling for a special Youth Pass. The petition, which was started last month, was the center of an aggressive social media campaign launched by the group, and has since been signed by nearly 1,000 Boston students. Later in the day, they will stage a “die-in,” where they plan to lay on the ground in protest, which will be preceded by a march through the city.

With another fare hike set to hit riders’ wallets this summer, students in Boston fear it will become unmanageable for them to ride the trains to and from school once they return to classes. Often times, younger riders have to opt out of attending after-school activities or sporting events because they can’t afford the extra trip. Besides demanding that the MBTA exempt student fares from the impending fare hike, the group wants the T to begin a pilot program of the Youth Pass.

“We’ve been bringing this issue to the MBTA for more than seven years,” said march organizer Javon Morris, 17. “The T is continuing to raise fares and ignoring the fact that many youth depend on public transit and already can’t afford it. “We have done our part. It’s time for the T to do theirs.”

MassDOT meetings have become a landing pad for protests in recent years, as fares have gone up and certain bus routes have been slashed.

In 2012, transportation advocates calling for the MBTA to fix its system and rid themselves of debt dressed up as superheroes and hijacked a board meeting, diverting attention from the scheduled agenda and bringing awareness to the problems that plague the cash-strapped transit system.

Protests calling for the T to lower the price of The Ride, the paratransit service that picks up elderly and disabled passengers, have also been held, both at MassDOT meetings, and outside the State House.

When asked if the T would respond to this particular protest, and request for a cheaper Youth Pass, MBTA said they already have. In the last year the T’s general manager, Beverly Scott, has consistently met with members of YAC and other organizations to discuss the impacts raising fares has on city youth. “We have met with activists, including the YAC, numerous times over the past several years and have always maintained an active dialogue with them regarding their concerns,” said MBTA spokesperson Kelly Smith.