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MBTA agrees to pilot reduced fare for youths

Yawu Miller | 6/25/2014, 11 a.m.

The MBTA will pilot a program allowing youths from age 12 to 21 to ride the MBTA at a reduced rate year-round, MTBA General Manager Beverly Scott announced at a board meeting last week.

Scott said the pilot will begin next July.

The move comes after youth and youth organizers staged a sit-in protest against what they said was the agency’s inaction on the youth pass. Teen groups have been advocating for reduced fares for teens for more than five years. Of the 30 protesters who staged a sit-in outside Transportation Secretary Richard Davey’s office two weeks ago, 21 were arrested.

Last week, the protest remained on the sidewalk outside, with youth joining a gathering of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 615 members protesting the MBTA’s proposed cut of 100 of the 300 janitors who currently clean the agency’s train stations.

Scott said tight state funding is making for hard choices.

“The whole issue of who pays and how much is one of the most complicated issues at any transit organization,” she said. “Whatever happens to squeeze on one end of the system comes out somewhere else.”

Currently, youths attending the Boston public schools receive reduced-fare passes that enable them to ride the MBTA while school is in session, some for five days a week, others for seven days a week. Youths who do not attend Boston public schools, who are not enrolled in school or who live within the two-mile walk zone of their school are not eligible for the passes.

Scott said the MBTA may negotiate changes to the school department’s walk zone policy.

“We’re going to work with the schools to find out what the distance is,” she said.

While children under 12 can ride the MBTA for free, when accompanied by an adult, children from 12 on who do not have reduced-fare passes provided by their schools are required to pay the full $2 fare. Senior citizens ride the MBTA at a reduced fare, $1 for trains and $.75 for buses, in accordance with federal law.

In the more than five years that activists have been advocating for a youth pass, MBTA officials have repeatedly citied funding as an issue.

Youth pass advocates responded by proposing a pass program where local universities pay in bulk for passes for their students. In the MBTA board meeting last week, Scott said local college and university representatives she met with were supportive of the idea.

“They want to work on a price point that generates revenue that could expand the program for youth,” she said.

While Scott spoke to the board, youth organizers were outside the Transportation Building in Park Square with labor activists protesting the proposed cuts to the cleaning staff.

SEIU 615 District Director Roxanne Rivera said the cutting the workforce by a third would place an unfair burden on the existing workers, who would be required to clean four or five stations per shift, up from the current two stations per shift.

“It’s going to be an unsustainable workload,” she said. “They’re cleaning vomit and urine off floors and walls. If they put pressure on the workers to clean twice as many stations, they’re putting the workers and the public at risk.”