At an April 3rd budget forum with the City of Portland, Youth Environmental Justice Alliance leaders sent a clear message to the City: until TriMet steps up and supports youth transit access fully, it’s up to City decision-makers to keep the program intact and funded. Many students depend upon the program for their transportation needs.
Two of the seven YEJA leaders present were randomly called to testify before the Mayor and City budget officials.
“The first time I ever explored Downtown was by way of MAX.,” said Nia Calloway, a YEJA member and student at Parkrose. “My grandfather has worked with TriMet for over 35 years and almost everyone in my family have at one point, or still currently use public transportation to get around the city. So I am no stranger to TriMet, or public transit. But I can tell you that in the two years that I have been in high school that I have used public transit more than in the previous years of my life combined.”
Speaking of YouthPass, she added, “This program aids our city’s students in too many ways to count. Continued funding would benefit every Portland community who can thrive by means of internships, youth groups, school clubs, and volunteering.”
The budget forum was held at David Douglas High School, “a high school where roughly a third of students rely on this very program,” said YEJA member Brendan Dang, currently a Junior at David Douglas. “While we ideally foresee a YouthPass program that is covered by TriMet, we do not want to leave next year open, especially as this has been the first implementation year here at David Douglas.”
Four other YEJA leaders present submitted prepared testimony to the council, though they weren’t called to speak. We hope decision makers and their staff read these vital stories of the importance of transit in the lives of our youth.
“YouthPass is important to students who don’t have the money to get home from school or their parents don’t have a way to come get them. High school aged youth are working and need to get to work,” wrote YEJA intern Adrianna Nietez, a sophomore. “We use YouthPass to see our friends, but also to visit our family. I visit my sister in Milwaukee using the MAX. YouthPass keeps me connected to my community.”
“In the past, there are some rare occasions where I overslept on a school day and panic on how I’m supposed to get to school before first period ended.,” wrote YEJA’s Christian Hernandez Segovia, a David Douglas junior. “I would use TriMet to get to school in case that were to happen but not have the proper change for it so I would be sometimes forced to overpay for my bus ticket. YouthPass saves me and my family money.”
Carly Chan told of how the pass benefits her: “I only entered Franklin two years ago after I moved here from Hong Kong. YouthPass is an essential part of my life, as it is now the only access I have to get anywhere. It helps me get to school every day. It saves me a lot of money and effort as I’m transitioning to a new environment. YouthPass helps me get everywhere – school, my internship at YEJA, to hang out with my friends, and volunteering at the Children’s Museum. I couldn’t get anywhere without public transit. I go to the grocery store and help my family.”
“We are excited to be currently collaborating with the city to make YouthPass a secure line item in TriMet’s budget in the near future.,” said YEJA intern Say Wah Paw. “In this process, however we need to ensure that there is still funding for this Fall. Ensuring YouthPass is in the city’s budget in September is an important step the city needs to take in this transition. The expansion of YouthPass into David Douglas high school has been extremely impactful to students here. It’s amazing to know that youth are getting to the places they need to go. I personally know of youth at David Douglas that are getting to jobs to help out their families because they now have transportation to get there.”
OPAL compiled a one-pager in conjunction with YEJA to lay out a trategy to fund the program permanently through TriMet. Check it out here.