Policymakers meet with youth for discussion on transit justice

Oregon State Senator Michael Dembrow and members of the Multnomah Youth Commission
The Multnomah Youth Commission, or MYC, held its first Youth Summit on Transit Justice on May 17, 2014 at David Douglas High School.
The MYC, a group of young people ages 13-21, plays an advisory role for local government in Multnomah County and the City of Portland.
The summit held on Saturday the 17th was an entirely youth-led event, with members of the MYC meeting at David Douglas at 11 a.m. After they spent the morning organizing their materials and preparing their arguments, they opened the doors for adults.
PSU professor Lisa Bates, who is studying the transit-dependent population for NITC, was in attendance with her capstone students. As part of a capstone course where students are required to conduct research that leads directly into social equity, Bates’ students worked with the youth of the MYC on transit justice. They applied a social science research foundation to their ideas and assisted them with using some best practices in the field. 
At 2:30 p.m., transit policymakers and community leaders began to enter the high school. Following a brief introductory presentation, the young people split up the group into breakout sessions.
During the sessions, members of the MYC shared with TriMet agents and government officials their firsthand experiences using the transit system and their recommendations for change, to improve service to transit-dependent youth.
Their recommendations were divided into three tiers, with areas of highest-priority change first.
"This is professional-level work. This is what we do," Dana Lucero, senior public involvement specialist at Metro, said.


The PSU capstone students investigated youth pass systems in other cities to see what was working elsewhere, and put up signs around the David Douglas cafeteria on the day of the event displaying highlights of their findings. They assisted the MYC members with local research as well, visiting area schools to collect students’ thoughts and experiences surrounding transit.
In addition to Douglas High School, the capstone students and MYC members visited Reynolds, Centennial Park, and Parkrose schools and conducted focus groups with the students there. They collected students’ testimonials for a video, which was shown as part of the MYC presentation to attendees on the afternoon of the summit.
In the breakout session on transit service, high school students described how they get around the city, with large hand-drawn route maps as visual aids. The adults listened and asked questions.
Several students recounted problems with slow service, infrequent service, and underserved parts of town. TriMet staff wanted to know what would make it easier for the students to get around, and what factors affected their daily transportation decisions.
“What was really valuable to me in the mapping exercise was, it’s always important to hear people’s stories; we saw how people are living their lives,” Oregon State Senator Michael Dembrow said.
TriMet has recently restructured its Youth Pass program, with a decrease in youth fares as part of the new structure. The new youth fare was discussed during the breakout session on transit service, with mixed opinions. A show of hands revealed that of the 12 teenagers present, only 2 had youth passes. 
“I think it’s kind of inequitable that TriMet is subsidizing the Youth Pass when it’s only for PPS students,” Stevie, a high school student, said. Other youth who used the Youth Pass said that the slight decrease in Youth Pass cost would be helpful to them and their families.
Following the breakout sessions, the entire group reconvened for a final presentation. MYC co-chair Adriana Rangel-Ponce invited the adults to share what they had learned and how they were going to use that in their place of work.
The adults responded with appreciation, and with concrete answers. Eddie Hill, of the City of Portland’s Bureau of Transportation, said that he would be including information from the summit in his next report. 
“The information I got today from the participants… were exactly the things that I thought were missing and I’m going to use it Tuesday morning as evidence with my report, and get it directly to my director, Leah Treat. So I really appreciate this, and I’m so happy that they are taking charge and taking leadership,” Hill said.
MYC's other co-chair, Samantha Young, acknowledged that the summit was the beginning of a conversation that should continue. "This is our first step, right here," Young said.
Sponsors of the Youth Summit include the Oregon Department of Transportation Rail and Public Transit Division, Penney Family Fund (a member of Common Counsel Foundation), Multnomah County's Office of Diversity and Equity, the City of Portland’s Office of Neighborhood Involvement, and OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon.

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