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Bronx High Schoolers Explain How MTA Funding Works

Who's in charge of how much a MetroCard swipe costs? To most New York City teenagers, it's a mystery. But not to a group of 16 Bronx high school students.

Monday night, the students presented a 12-minute video they made during a summer course with the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP). It explains everything from who appoints the MTA board to the size of the gap in the capital budget.

Students interviewed everyday commuters, elected officials, and policy experts, including Assembly Member Jim Brennan, MTA spokesperson Adam Lisberg, and Tri-State Transportation Campaign Executive Director Veronica Vanterpool.

The video was a project of CUP's Urban Investigations program, which works with public high school students to illuminate public policy. "Really, what we try to do is choose topics that allow them to see how the city works," said Christy Herbes, youth education program director at CUP. "We were trying to choose an issue that all the students in the Bronx could relate to."

The students said they learned why the buses and subways cost what they do, and how the system is structured. "I never knew that they had the tolls, that they do taxes, and that other governments pitch in," said David DeLorbe, a junior at Bronx Compass High School. "I never knew they were trying to upgrade countdown clocks, add new bus routes, and add new trains."

CUP staff first thought of the MTA as a topic for students when fares went up in March. The film was produced as discussion over the capital program began to heat up over the summer, and the students explain the difference between the MTA's capital and operating budgets.

Students in the summer program came from five Bronx high schools and met for four days a week over the course of four weeks to produce the film. The project was funded in part through a crowdfunding campaign and grants from the city.

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