Young people in the Boston, Chelsea and Cambridge may be one step closer to having better access to public transportation.
Following years of pressure from youth advocates, MBTA officials told Metro that on Thursday they'll unveil a plan to lower T passes to $26 a month from $75, for riders age 12-18, whether or not they are enrolled in school. The year-long pilot program would launch in July, and would be open to 1,500 youths.
High school students over 18 and riders aged 19 to 21 who met a means test would also be eligible. The plan also includes a $7 seven-day pass for youths.
Advocates from the Youth Affordabili(T) Coalition have been pushing for a youth pass for about five years. Transit officials began working on the pilot program in July after MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott tasked them with hammering out a proposal.
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“We’re very sensitive to the assertion of the advocacy community that there is a youth affordability crisis,” said Clinton Bench, who leads the program for MassDOT .
Bench will outline the proposal at Thursday's MassDOT board meeting. Though its members needn't formally vote on the pilot for it to go into effect, Bench said organizers hope the board will give its blessing.
The passes would be distributed through partnerships with each municipality, Bench said.
Asked about concerns over fraudulent use of the youth pass, Clinton said organizers will keep a close eye on patterns that suggest the passes have gotten into the wrong - or older - hands.
"We believe the risk for fraud is relatively low, since there will only be 1,500 youths in the pilot," said Bench.
If the youth pass test run is a success, it will become permanent. Bench estimates that as many as 12,000 Boston-area youths will benefit from it.
Youth Affordabili(T) Coalition Kenisha Allen, 18, is one of them. The Boston teen says she was forced to leave Madison Park Technical Vocational High School because she couldn't afford to travel to and from school, work, and family obligations.
"To me, this pass is very important because I will be able to do what I have to do," said Allen, who has been a keen advocate for the youth pass.
Youth organizers have previously called for a $10 youth pass, but Allen said she considers the $26 price tag to be reasonable.
"To me, it's a victory. I think it's a good win."