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Youth demand action from State House to stop fare hikes
700 teens march in support of an affordable MBTA system
[BOSTON – March 30] On Thursday, 700 youth from Boston, Somerville, Chelsea, Cambridge, Brookline and Quincy rallied in downtown Boston to voice opposition to the proposed MBTA fare hike and service cuts. Marching one day after the MBTA’s final proposal for a 23 percent fare hike, teens from the Youth Affordabili(T) Coalition (YAC) blasted MassDOT and State House leaders for not doing enough to protect youth riders.
“We depend on the T for school, work, healthcare appointments and more,” said Modesto Sanchez of YAC, a march organizer. “That’s why we called this our March for Opportunity,” or “Opportuni(T)” as one banner described.
The march made its first stop at the state Transportation Building, where youth leaders met with MassDOT Board Chairman John Jenkins. Secretary of Transportation Richard Davey refused to meet with the group.
After boisterous chanting, such as “You say cut back; we say fight back,” march leader Tyree Ware declared, “It is clear that MassDOT and the MBTA won’t do anything for us. We need to take this to their bosses!” With that, the march departed for the State House.
At the State House, youth leaders met with staff from the offices of Governor Patrick, Speaker DeLeo and Senate President Murray. All three were asked to commit to removing the Big Dig Debt burden from the MBTA—approximately $3.3 billion—and all refused.
Returning from the meetings to the march outside, youth voiced anger over the officials’ refusal to meet in person and overall silence during the MBTA’s fare increase process.
Jean Charles of YAC told the crowd that Speaker DeLeo’s Chief of Staff responded that the Big Dig Debt and transportation funding is “too complicated.” Charles stirred the crowd to repeat, “it’s complicated,” several times before declaring, “My need to get to school isn’t complicated!’”
Many youth spoke of not being able to afford the T with current prices. They cited consequences of the 23% fare hike that include dropping out of school, losing jobs and forcing families to decide between transportation and food.
“We need a Youth Pass,” said Katherine Castillo of YAC. “That is how we can get to opportunities.” The group’s proposed Youth Pass, which was the focus of several speakers, is a discounted monthly pass for youth between the ages of 12 and 21.
YAC, which has also been a fixture of the MBTA’s contentious public hearing process in recent months, pledges to continue to build pressure on State House leaders until all fare hikes and service cuts are off the table, public transportation is adequately funded and the Youth Pass is implemented.