Transportation is a human right. Sustainable, equitable funding for youth transportation access is a key goal of the local youth-led movement for transportation justice.
Youth Environmental Justice Alliance (YEJA), Multnomah Youth Commission, our allies and supporters have long been working with school districts and the city to establish a path forward for sustainable YouthPass funding. We have demonstrated a longstanding commitment to this work, even as we have highlighted missteps in the struggle to win equitable transportation access for East Portland youth, and we will continue to hold decision-makers accountable.
Although no additional City resources were invested this year, the city granted an extension of last year’s funding to cover the upcoming school year. David Douglas and Parkrose had challenges launching the program last year, which resulted in an unused portion of funding. While this is a practical, common sense use of limited resources, this short-term extension leaves the future of the program unresolved and with no commitments to a sustainable, long-term solution.
Trimet befittingly continues their current financial commitment to YouthPass, a commitment the recent announcement redirects but does not increase. We will persist in our assertion that those who make decisions about our transit system take student transit access seriously, as a central priority for ridership growth, congestion relief and carbon reduction.
YouthPass should be available for all students for the full school year. This recent announcement is a positive development but does not weaken the community’s resolve to find permanent, sustainable funding for equitable access to public transportation for all students regardless of race, income, or geography.
We have heard loud and clear from students: every student in the TriMet service district must have access to YouthPass, and youth are wary of a means-tested program. The goal of YouthPass is to provide access to opportunity for all. OPAL has already committed to active participation as part of an advisory group working with TriMet to bring this program to even more schools and more students.
“YouthPass availability for the largest number of regional students can address TriMet’s declining ridership by cultivating a new generation of transit riders, as well as helping the City, County, and Metro meet our climate emissions goals, and get cars off our clogged streets,” says Executive Director Huy Ong.
“We will continue to hold decision-makers accountable to center the priorities of low-income youth of color in East Portland and beyond. Bad policies result when the people impacted are not informing decisions.”