Boston Youth Pass protesters angry over MBTA meeting shut out

A look at the MassDOT Board meeting on June 18, 2014. Photo: Nicolaus Czarnecki/Metro.
A look at the MassDOT Board meeting on June 18, 2014. Photo: Nicolaus Czarnecki/Metro.

Protesters said they are frustrated after being shut out of a public MassDOT board meeting where they had planned to voice ideas on how to pilot a $10 MBTA youth pass for passengers between the ages of 12 and 21.

Earlier this month more than 20 protesters from the Youth Affordabili(T) Coalition were arrested for trespassing after a refusing to leave the Department of Transportation building after it closed for the day. Twenty-five YAC members planned to testify at Wednesday’s meeting, but most were told the room was at capacity.

“I’ve been to plenty of [T] meetings before and they are always packed,” said YAC member Kalila Barnett, who was one of three arrestees allowed to speak. “The room [Wednesday] was definitely not packed. When I first walked in there were empty seats; though I had just been told that I could not go in.”

“That was disturbing to us,” said ACE Political Director Lee Matsueda, who did not make it inside the meeting. “It didn’t feel good.”

Barnett said she and her fellow organizers were “really disappointed and upset” that MassDOT did not choose to hold its meeting in a larger conference room despite having advance notice that the large group planned on attending.

“I think they had an assumption about what we were going to do at the meeting… It feels to me they are not willing to commit to the conversation,” she said.

MBTA Spokeswoman Kelly Smith said that for safety and security reasons, when the board room is at capacity, people may be restricted from entering until people exit the room and space becomes available.

“A ‘one in, one out’ policy was in place; as members of the public left the room, those who wished to get in were allowed to do so,” said Smith. “The Board may also limit the number of people offering comment on a single subject in the interest of time. [Eighteen] people gave comment at today’s Board of Directors meeting on a number of important issues and MassDOT always encourages the public to attend and participate in public meetings.”

As part of the 2015 Fares Work Plan, MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott yesterday called for a feasibility study of youth fare programs to be completed by the end of 2014, but organizers said they want a firmer commitment.

“On our end there are no guarantees. That’s a major concern for us,” Matsueda said.”To date we still have not had a conversation about recommendations we’ve given them.”

The 21 protesters, many of whom were in their late teens and 20s, will not incur criminal records for the June 9 sit-in, according to the Suffolk district attorney’s office.

A judge amended the criminal complaints to civil violations and dismissed them at arraignment. About 40 YAC protesters chanted outside the transportation building during Wednesday’s meeting. No arrests took place.

Follow Morgan Rousseau on Twitter: @MetroMorgan
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