Fed agency will conduct civil rights probe of BART

November 18, 2009 9:13:59 AM PST
The Federal Transit Administration's civil rights office will conduct an investigation to determine if BART projects have a discriminatory impact on minority and low-income people, according to Wynn Hausser of Public Advocates.

Hausser said federal officials agreed to conduct the probe after Public Advocates, a San Francisco-based nonprofit law firm and advocacy group, filed a complaint on behalf of three public transit advocacy groups alleging that BART's $522 million project to build a 3.2-mile-long rail connector between the Coliseum station and the Oakland International Airport evades its civil rights obligations.

The complaint, filed on behalf of TransForm, Urban Habitat and Genesis, asserted that BART failed to evaluate whether the airport connector will have a discriminatory impact on minority and low-income people, Hausser said.

The FTA said it will take a comprehensive look at all BART projects, including the airport connector, Hausser said.

BART spokesman Linton Johnson said the agency undergoes FTA compliance reviews on a routine basis, and had been notified of the review in December 2008, well before the complaint by TransForm.

He said the review "would happen regardless of whether TransForm or anyone else filed a complaint. For TransForm to say their complaint is a basis for this routine review is a far stretch of the truth."

At issue is Title VI of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits recipients of federal funding from discriminating in their programs and activities.

Hausser said as a recipient of FTA assistance, including stimulus funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, BART is subject to federal requirements mandating an equity impacts analysis of significant service and race changes as well as improvements associated with the project and its alternatives.

He alleged that the airport connector project would have a discriminatory impact because it would replace the existing AirBART bus service, which charges a fare of $3 each way, with a rail service that's project to cost $6 each way.

Hausser said the connector would create a hardship for low-wage employees at the Oakland airport and wouldn't include local stops that would serve the community. The original plans for the airport connector had called for two local stops, he said.

Hausser said advocacy groups and community residents have asked BART to analyze and consider using a rapid bus service instead of the rail connector. Rapid bus service advocates say it would only cost between $45 million and $60 million, so BART would save hundreds of millions of dollars.


Load Comments