Activists hold rally to fight for reduced fare student MBTA passes

In the wake of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s recent late-night service additions, the Youth Affordabili(T) Coalition is rallying for the creation of youth and university passes that will make riding the bus or subway cheaper for middle school, high school and college students.

As part of a movement referred to as Youth Way by the MBTA, 250 youths and adults in the coalition rallied at the Youth Power March at the Park Street T stop Wednesday to present their case and show the need for lower costs and extended hours for students and youth riding the T.

John Griese, a Boston University junior who has spearheaded the program calling for the implementation of the University Pass, said the new system would require all Boston universities to purchase MBTA passes for their students at discounted prices, saving college students money and generating enough revenue for the MBTA to afford the new Youth Pass.

“Thirty percent of students have said that they’ve missed class because they couldn’t afford a fare,” he said. “MBTA just does not have the funds for [the Youth Pass] but the University Pass would generate internal service revenue … and increase enough revenue for the Youth Pass program.”

The youth-led power march followed a meeting between Boston’s youth leaders and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation Board of Directors, where young people delivered testimonies about their experiences with the current MBTA student passes, said YAC representative Dave Jenkins.

“We need the T to follow through on their commitment,” he said. “Student pass is the only pass that has restrictions on it. It does not allow high school students to ride for free on weekends. One very inexpensive fix would be to simply lift that restriction.”

Jenkins said the YAC’s long-term goal is to create a public transportation system that will be accessible for everyone, without barriers.

“The future of the city depends on public transit,” he said. “The Youth Pass combined with the University Pass creates the framework of the transit generation.”

Youth Way has requested that the MBTA take two concrete steps toward affordability, including a broader use of the student pass on weekends and an implementation of a Youth Pass pilot program, neither of which should have large economic implications on the MBTA, according to a Tuesday press release.

Joe Pesaturo, the MBTA spokesman, said the MBTA has always had an active dialogue with the YAC and other activist groups about fare changes and opportunities for student passes.

“The MBTA already offers discounted fares as well as a discounted student [passes] for Junior High [and] High School students for only $28 per month, less than half the cost of a regular monthly Link Pass,” he said in an email. “As part of our conversation, the MBTA in the past year changed the terms of the student pass to include use on weekends and through the end of service.”

Jason Lowenthal, 35, of Randolph, is a former Boston University student and YAC activist who attended Wednesday’s rally. He said the changes recommended by the YAC would have a significant impact on the lives of Boston’s youth.

“At ever increasing rates, students in middle school and high school are being expected to help cover living expenses, their own expenses, and in many instances, even some of their family’s expenses,” he said in an email. “As Boston Public Schools cut bus service, a $10 Youth Pass may be a necessity for some students to continue to attend school.”

Lowenthal said the improved youth passes would also allow the MBTA to efficiently serve the needs of the public.

“Youth Passes are as important to students’ wellbeing as expanded, late-night hours are for late shift employees … to safely return home,” he said. “A youth pass will show the MBTA’s commitment to helping students learn and grow.”


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