YouthPass means opportunity. YouthPass means greater equity. YouthPass means a cleaner environment. With Youth Environmental Justice Alliance leaders, OPAL staff, and community allies showing up for YEJA, an overwhelming majority of the testimonies shared at the July 27th meeting of the HB 2017 Advisory Board were about what YouthPass means to students all over Portland. Beyond the testimonies, many supporters filled the room to defend funding for YouthPass. After the City slashed YouthPass funding last year, YEJA and OPAL have been tracking other potential sources of revenue, and identified funds that come from the 2017 state investment in transportation, known as PTIP. Securing currently unallocated funds within HB2017 could mean YouthPass becomes a permanent program after 22 years of community activism around youth fare in Portland, and with PTIP funds could be expanded to Clackamas and Washington counties as well. Check out the timeline below.
While there were many community members vying for the chance to share their opinions, Trimet only allotted twenty minutes for public comment, making it nearly impossible to truly hear the collective voice. Luckily, the public pushed back, forcing testimonies to instead run for almost an hour. Testimonies covered the key importance of YouthPass, demonstrating multi-sector benefits by helping not just reduce carbon pollution and traffic congestion, but also address inequities our low-income communities and communities of color experience by giving youth a literal pass to attain more opportunities. YouthPass can work as a community strengthener, because, as one community ally put it, “a transit pass is a pass to ride along with other passengers who wedge themselves into our city-wide pie chart of delicious demographics and diversity.”
Speakers also displayed a sense of urgency when talking about the need for YouthPass. They conveyed that YouthPass and environmental justice communities need to stop being overlooked. “Investing in environmental justice communities is not for some other conversation or some other source of funding,” said OPAL Advocacy Coordinator María Hernández Segoviano during her impassioned testimony. “It is for now, and this funding.”
The organizing victory of getting so many OPAL allies, Bus Riders Unite and Youth Environmental Justice alliance member into the room was no easy task given that the meeting took place in downtown Portland, miles away from the communities most impacted by Trimet’s decision, at 8 am, making it inaccessible for many working folks and those who commute long distances by bus. Much credit for this turnout goes to BRU Organizer Orlando Lopez, YEJA Organizer Adrian Cato, and Advocacy Coordinator Maria Hernandez Segoviano, all of whom spoke on YouthPass, the need for service enhancement, and the regressive nature of the payroll tax which funds PTIP, creating a sense of urgency for investment in low-income people who are hit hardest by payroll taxes.
We would like to thank everyone who was able to make it out in support of YouthPass today, and for the support of those that wanted to be there but couldn’t make it for any reason. We are asking all of our supporters to read and share on social media our PTIP Proposal for YouthPass to help us spread the word. Check out the YouthPass one-pager and print some off to tell people about our plan!As a community ally Ginny Stern said during her testimony: “The time is now to get YouthPass permanent funding, providing opportunity of all youth, especially low income and youth of color, supporting social and environmental justice.”
Timeline of YouthPass Funding
“In 1997, Vera Katz is Mayor; Sisters in Action for Power, a group of adults and 14 year old women of color began the work to establish a YouthPass with TriMet to give access to youth for school, work, activities, and family. The youth succeed!
In 2005, funding failed. In 2005, youth try again. Multnomah Youth Commission pressure to state to fund the YouthPass through the Business Energy Fund. Mayor Potter and Adams agree. The youth succeed!
In 2011, funding failed. In 2012, the youth try again. Youth ask for permanent funding of the YouthPass. Mayor Adams says that the YouthPass gives youth access to transit and community no matter where they live, income level or skin color. The city of Portland, Trimet, and PPS all work together to fund YouthPass. The youth succeed!
In 2014, funding failed. Trimet reduced its funding. In 2015, youth try again. Multnomah Youth Commission and OPAL’s Youth Environmental Justice Alliance conduct research on YouthPass: 10 pages of data driven information about how the YouthPass helps our youth and the community’s future. The youth ask for permanent funding of David Douglass, Parkrose, and Portland Public School Students. In 2017, the youth succeed! But Mayor Wheeler says that future funding for YouthPass is doubtful, and in 2018, the funding fails. The youth are trying again!” (as shared by Ginny Stern in her testimony to PTIP)
This critical program has been underfunded for long enough! Support the youth-led push to fund YouthPass permanently and expand it to every student in our region. Share this blog with your networks and invest in OPAL today.