Walk in Our Shoes
EXPANDING BUS PASS ACCESS FOR PROVIDENCE STUDENTS
How it started
In early 2014, students in Providence identified a problem: many students found it hard or even impossible to get to school due to the school being too far from their home and not having a consistent ride. At the time, Providence gave students bus passes if they lived over three miles from their school. However, this meant that some students found themselves needing to walk three miles to school in uncomfortable, unsafe, or outright dangerous conditions. For example, during the winter sidewalks would often be blocked with snow, forcing students to walk in the street in what were sometimes low-visibility conditions.
Students also identified issues of class and race at the forefront of this problem. Students from wealthier backgrounds would have no problem finding rides or paying for a bus pass, while students living below the poverty line- oftentimes students of color- found themselves unable to. Monthly RIPTA bus passes needed to be provided to more high school students free of charge so that they could get to school safely.
Students from all across Providence were involved, including students from Hope, Central, Classical, E-Cubed and Mount Pleasant High School, although the long-term leaders were students from Central High School.
The campaign targeted the Providence School Department in the first year, and in 2015 when it came time to put the money for the 2 mile radius reduction new bus passes into the budget, the city failed to do so. This prompted a renewed surge of activism targeting Mayor Elorza centered around the premise of "#KeepYourPromise."
Students invited school department staff and city council people to walk with them to school. They met at a students house, and walked 2.9 miles together in the snow, until they reached the student's school - showing just how difficult the barrier of getting to school can be.
In the Spring of 2014, when the city budget for the following year did not include expanded bus passes for students, PSU organized a 3-day protest at City Hall after school. Students marched around the second floor of City Hall for 2.5 miles each day, demonstrating how long their walk to school is. They chanted "Keep your promise" and "we just want to get to school"
The campaign was successful! In 2015, the radius for students to receive bus passes was reduced to 2.5 miles, and in 2016 it was reduced to 2 miles. Over 1800 more students annually are eligible for bus passes.
In the media
Local media has covered this campaign extensively, with WPRI, the Providence Journal, and RI Future covering the protests asking Elorza to keep his promise. Also well covered was the three mile walk that key decision-makers were invited to, with in-depth coverage of the action again provided by the Providence Journal, and an opinion piece appearing in East Side Monthly.
But it wasn't just local media covering this campaign. Resist.org has written two articles about it, one news article covering one specific action at city hall, and one longer feature piece detailing the campaign as a whole, from the first actions to the students' eventual victory.
View photos and videos of various actions below.