Armando Barragan, Youth Affordabili(T) Coalition member and Youth Pass Working Group member

July 1, 2015

Armando at a YAC celebration in 2014For me, the Youth Pass is important because I’ve always used the MBTA to get to school, since middle school. Even though my middle school was in East Boston where I live, I still took the bus to get there, and at that time I didn’t get a Student Pass. So I would pay the student fare and that was money that I had to pay every single day that I went to school.

Since going to high school, I have to use more transportation – the train and the bus. Luckily, for high school, I did get a Student Pass. But if I didn’t, I definitely wouldn’t have gone to that school at all. There wouldn’t have even been a possibility for me to go because of all the money I would have spent just on transportation for four years. I would have ended up going to the high school in East Boston, which I didn’t want because I knew there were opportunities for me somewhere else to do the things that I actually wanted.

So a pass – being able to get on the train affordably – was the best thing for me. There are tons of other students who have similar experiences and use the MBTA every single day. A pass is really useful for them.

I remember when I first got the Student Pass, there were still restrictions on it – no weekends and it only went to 8:00 p.m. – it ended pretty early. I attended a lot of events then because I was doing community organizing. There were many events that would go late that were fun and safe, but it was too late for my pass to work so I would have to pay. There were a lot of things that I missed in the first couple years. My movement was basically restricted with the pass. Every time I went out, I had to make a conscious decision of whether I could pay or not.

Now, youth aren’t going to be as troubled or stressed about needing to go somewhere. Now they know, okay, I have this pass, so I can go where I need to go, when I need to go. They won’t have to miss out on anything. There were probably events and fun things that I missed because I was like, I can’t go somewhere right now, because I don’t have the money. So with the pass, we all have a lot more freedom.

I definitely see youth coming to more events. When you have a pass that you know you can use, you’re going to be like, there’s nothing stopping me right now. We can enjoy things now, especially with all the fun summer events. If the city puts out things they want youth to participate in, people can actually be involved now.

I started working on this campaign in my freshman year. I started off fighting for more money for the MBTA because at that time they were almost going bankrupt, so we were trying to raise money. I use the MBTA every day so if it goes bankrupt, how am I going to get to school? So that’s how I got into it, and from there we met with officials and celebrated each win along the way.

Later on, we were having more actions and I got more involved after learning more about the Youth Pass and seeing how important it was. From there we organized stronger and stronger events, meeting with the MBTA General Manager, and holding the sit-in and everything. That’s when I got hired to work at the MBTA for six months, making sure the Youth Pass stayed true to what we wanted, wasn’t distorted by what they wanted, and making sure we found that middle ground.

When I was hired, that was the first time the MBTA really worked with youth. I think both of us – [YAC member] Pedro and I – were good interns because they weren’t used to young people and we were strong enough to be independent and help them to get used to youth. We were their guinea pigs, and hopefully they see that they can start working with youth more and get them involved in bigger decisions.

I think it’s good to see that young people won something and recognize that it took hard work – and many years – to get something that we really needed. If we really want it, it’s going to happen.