Riding the T just became a little easier for Boston-area youth, thanks to a successful pilot program that was voted into permanence this week.
The MBTA Youth Pass program began last July as a trial to give young people between the ages of 12 and 21 easier access to public transportation. Lack of access to transportation disproportionately hurts people of color and those of us living in low-income communities, making it harder to get to school, jobs, the doctor, and recreational activities.
The campaign for youth transit justice was championed by the Youth Affordabili(T) Coalition (YAC), a group of young organizers at Alternatives for Community & Environment (ACE). The Coalition grew out of frustrations over MBTA passes that, currently at $75 per month, were cost-prohibitive to many. Additionally, although the MBTA offered student passes at a discount, they excluded those enrolled in GED or alternative education programs, could only be used during the months that schools were in session, and were only available to students at participating institutions. YAC proposed a Youth Pass solution that would make transportation affordable year-round and would include non-traditional students.
The MBTA Youth Pass pilot program, which offered $26 monthly fares for 12- to 21-year-old riders regardless of school enrollment status in four communities, was a resounding success. Surveys of participants showed that, since July 1, 2015, the program enabled young people to take 30 percent more trips on the T and buses than they would have otherwise. That number was even higher for those who hadn’t previously had access to existing MBTA discounts; their trips increased by a whopping 99 percent.
On Monday, the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board unanimously voted to make Youth Pass discounts permanent and to expand the program to 17 communities. To the delight of YAC and other supporters, the Board also opted to extend the discounts to low-income young people up to the age of 25, recognizing the challenges many young adults also face in accessing affordable public transportation. As a result, people aged 19 to 25 will need to show low-income eligibility, such as enrollment in food assistance, MassHealth, or job-training programs. Transit users aged 12 to 18 will be able to use the pass regardless of income level. Since fare hikes are scheduled to take place across the board next month, the cost for an MBTA Youth Pass will increase to $30 – but that is still less than half the cost of the $84.50 regularly priced monthly passes.
The Conservation Law Foundation congratulates our partners at YAC and ACE on this win, which, will make public transit a more affordable, reliable, and equitable option for Boston’s next generation.