Metropolitan Atlanta Transportation Equity Coalition
P.O. Box 42350~Atlanta, Georgia 30311
Phone: 404-755-2294 Fax: 404-755-0575

November 28, 2000

Ron Stroman
Director of Civil Rights
Office of the Secretary
U.S. Department of Transportation400 7th Street, S.W.
Room 10216
Washington, DC 20590

Nuria Fernandez
Federal Transit Administration
Department of Transportation
400 7th Street, S.W. Room 10216
Washington, DC 20590

Re: Title VI Challenge to the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority Based on Disparate Treatment in Service Delivery to its Minority Riders; Title VI Challenge to the Decision of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority to Raise its Fares to the Detriment of Minority Riders; Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act Challenge to the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority Disparate Treatment in Service Delivery to its Disabled Riders

 

Dear Messrs. Stroman and Fernandez:

Complainants file this administrative charge of discrimination on behalf of their minority and disabled members and other similarly situated minority and disabled persons in Fulton and Dekalb Counties challenging (1) the Metropolitan Atlanta Transit Authority's (MARTA) disparate treatment in its delivery of services to minority riders; (2) the decision of the MARTA to raise its fares which will disproportionately burden poor, transit-dependent African Americans; and (3) the MARTA's disparate treatment in its delivery of services to its disabled riders. The MARTA's service delivery to minority communities is not up to par with the services provided to white communities. A disproportionate number of the MARTA's overcrowded bus lines are located in minority communities, and minority communities do not receive a proportionate share of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) buses and bus shelters. Additionally, MARTA's rail stations located in minority communities are poorly maintained, have fewer amenities, and are provided inadequate security. Also, Latino riders are not provided Spanish language translation services to permit participation in public meetings sponsored by MARTA. Additionally, the MARTA made the decision to raise its fares and thereby disparately impact African Americans who made up 73% of its 1999 ridership, while committing $464 million in construction costs and $4 million per year in operating costs to two new train stations on the North line, which will benefit predominately white suburban communities. Disabled riders are also poorly served by the MARTA due to the late arrival of buses equipped to service the disabled, broken elevators, and inoperable lifts. Plaintiffs allege that the MARTA, a federal fund recipient, is in violation of (1) the Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §2000d, and its implementing regulations codified by the U.S. Department of Transportation (the Department) at 49 C.F.R. Part 21; (2) the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§12101-12213, and its implementing regulations codified by the Department at 49 CFR Parts 37 and 38; and (3) Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended at 29 U.S.C. 794 (Section 504).

The relief the complainants seek is to require the MARTA to (1) correct the disparity in service delivery to minority communities, as required by the Department's Title VI regulations; and (2) cease and desist from implementing the fare increase and reduce fares to correct subsidization of white commuters by transit-dependent African American riders; (3) correct the disparity in service delivery to disabled riders, as required by the Department's ADA regulations and Section 504. Complainants also seek an expedited investigation.

I. Parties

MATEC is an advocacy and membership organization whose purposes and activities include obtaining equity in the operation of the public transportation system in metro Atlanta. The coalition membership includes representatives from civil rights organizations, environmental justice groups, neighborhood associations, religious groups, academic institutions, and organized labor.

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) is a civil and human rights organization initially founded by Martin Luther King Jr. to eliminate legalized segregation. It continues to advocate for equal accessibility of all the rights and privileges to all people in the United States and around the world.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is the nation's largest and strongest civil rights organization. The NAACP's principal objective is to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of minority group citizens of United States and eliminate race prejudice. The NAACP seeks remove all barriers of racial discrimination through democratic processes.

The Rainbow/PUSH Coalition is a multi-issue, international membership organization founded by Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. The group unites people of diverse ethnic religious, economic, and political backgrounds to continue the struggle for social, political, racial and economic justice.

The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 732, represents approximately 2,500 active employees on the property of the Metropolitan Atlanta rapid Transit Authority.

Second Chance Community Services, Inc. is a community-based organization working in the South DeKalb County area focusing on environmental issues such as landfills and land contamination.

The Youth Task Force (YTF) is a collective of young people who came together in 1992 to fight environmental genocide occurring in poor communities of color across the South. Today, YTF has evolved as a mass movement of young people striving to alleviate the oppressions of minority communities through education, training, networking, mobilizing, and organizing for the right to self-determination for African People(s).

Rebel Forest Neighborhood Task Force was organized in June 1993 to promote quality-of-life improvements for residents of Atlanta-area communities (Jonesboro South and North, Leila Valley, Rebel Forest, Thomasville, Lakewood and others). The task force is actively involved in environmental initiatives to combat pollution in the communities that it represents.

The Campbellton Road Coalition (CRC) is a grass-roots, community-based advocacy group whose purposes and activities include opposition to the Georgia Department of Transportation's (G-DOT) proposed widening of a 6.2 mile section of the Campbellton Road Corridor extending from Barge Road at I-285 to Fulton Industrial Boulevard and includes the southwest communities of Ben Hill, within the city limits of Atlanta, Georgia and Sandtown in unincorporated Fulton County, Georgia. CRC represents well over 250 stakeholders, including homeowner, businesses, churches, and civic organizations who adamantly oppose G-DOT's proposed upgrade and, instead have proposed safer, more efficient and sustainable, context-sensitive design that will accommodate all users, i.e., automobiles, trucks, bicycles and other non-motorized vehicles, and which will, at the same time, support the kinds of economic development, neighborhood revitalization, commercial redevelopment, environmental sensitivity, and enhanced quality of life that the stakeholders have envisioned for themselves and their families.

Center for Environmental Public Awareness (CEPA) is a community-based, non-profit organization that develops environmental education and leadership development programs to assist communities, students, technical professionals, and other volunteers to work toward achieving environmental justice in environmentally devastated communities. CEPA also works to increase minority representation in environmental careers and the Environmental Justice Movement.

The Santa Fe Villas Tenant's Association is comprised of people who were formerly homeless and includes a 70% disabled population. Its mission is to work toward sustainable, independent living for its members.

Poor, minority and disabled members of complainants' organizations are regular passengers on MARTA buses and rail lines and are adversely affected by the challenged actions.

MARTA is a governmental entity that provides public transportation in Fulton and Dekalb Counties. MARTA receives at least $188 million annually in federal financial assistance

This complaint is timely filed because the challenged MARTA decision on its fare increase occurred less than 5 months ago on June 19, 2000, and the disparity in service delivery to minority communities and to disabled riders is part of an ongoing pattern of disparate treatment by the MARTA.

II. The Law Requires Equal Treatment of All Atlantans

A. Title VI

Title VI provides that: "No person in the United States shall on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." 42 U.S.C. 2000d.

Intentional Discrimination. Title VI and the Department's regulations prohibit systemic, purposeful discrimination. The Supreme Court has declared that "[d]etermining whether invidious discriminatory purpose was a motivating factor demands a sensitive inquiry into such circumstantial and direct evidence of intent as may be available" in cases of systemic claims. Arlington Heights v. Metro Housing Corp, 429 U.S. 252, 266 (1977).

Arlington Heights lists the following evidence that should be considered in determining if discriminatory purpose exists: (1) the impact of the official action, whether it bears more heavily on one race than another, may provide an important starting point; (2) historical background of the decision, particularly if a series of official actions was taken for invidious purposes; (3) departures from the normal procedural sequence; and (4) substantive departures, particularly if the factors usually considered important by the decisionmaker strongly favor a decision contrary to the one reached.

Disparate Impact. The Department's applicable regulations prohibit not only purposeful discrimination, but also the use of federal funds that have a racially discriminatory impact. 49 C.F.R. §21.5 (b)(2).

A recipient ...may not, directly or through contractual or other arrangements, utilize criteria or methods of administration which have the effect of subjecting individuals to discrimination because of their race, color, national origin, or have the effect of defeating or substantially impairing accomplishments or objectives of the program as respect individuals of a particular race, color or national origin.

On July 14, 1994, Attorney General Janet Reno issued a memorandum to the heads of departments and agencies that provide federal financial assistance reiterating that "administrative regulations implementing Title VI apply not only to intentional discrimination but also to policies and practices that are neutral on their face but have the effect of discriminating. Those policies and practices must be eliminated unless they are shown to be necessary to the program's operation and there is no less discriminatory alternative." Memorandum from Attorney General Janet Reno to Heads of Departments and Agencies that Provide Federal Financial Assistance, Use of Disparate Impact in Administrative Regulations Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (July 14, 1994).

Complainants allege that MARTA's decision to raise fares and provide substandard services to its minority riders, including failure to provide needed translation services for Latino riders, is part and parcel of a pattern of intentional discrimination in the operation of MARTA's public transportation system to the detriment of Atlanta's minority residents. Plaintiffs also allege that the challenged MARTA actions have the unmistakable impact of subjecting individuals to discrimination because of race, color, or national origin and the effect of defeating or substantially impairing accomplishment of the objectives of the MARTA in providing transportation services in Fulton and Dekalb Counties. Plaintiffs also allege that the MARTA's actions cannot be justified on the grounds of business necessity and that MARTA intentionally rejected less discriminatory alternatives.

B. ADA and Section 504

Section 504 provides that no otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States, shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. 29 U.S.C. §794 et seq. Title II, Subtitle B of the ADA extends the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of disability established by Section 504 to all activities of State and local government, including those that do not receive Federal financial assistance. 42 U.S.C. §12131 et seq.

In enacting the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Congress found that society has tended to isolate and segregate people with disabilities; that individuals with disabilities continually encounter various forms of discrimination, including both outright exclusion and the failure to make modifications to exclusionary criteria; that the Nation's proper goals regarding individuals with disabilities are to assure equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for such individuals; that the continuing existence of unfair and unnecessary discrimination denies individuals with disabilities the opportunity to compete on an equal basis and to pursue those opportunities for which our free society is justifiably famous; and that continuing existence of discrimination and prejudice against people with disabilities costs the United States billions of dollars in unnecessary expenses. 42 U.S.C. §12101(a).

The express purposes of the ADA are to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities; to provide clear, strong, consistent, enforceable standards addressing discrimination against individuals with disabilities; and to ensure that the federal government plays a central role in enforcing the standards established in the Act on behalf of individuals with disabilities. 42 U.S.C §12101(b).

The DOT regulations promulgated to implement the ADA prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities in connection with the provision of transportation services. 49 CFR §37.5. As a part of providing nondiscriminatory services to the disabled, public transit systems are required to maintain in operative condition features of their facilities and vehicles that make them readily accessible and usable by individuals with disabilities. 49 CFR §37.161. This provision requires regular maintenance checks to assure that accessibility features are in working order and prompt repairs are made if accessibility features are damaged or out of order. Additionally, steps must be made to accommodate disabled individuals who would otherwise use the accessibility features. Lift failures are addressed by §37.163 of the DOT ADA regulation and requires a public transit provider to establish a system of regular and frequent maintenance checks of lifts sufficient to determine if they are operative. Inoperative lifts must be reported immediately and repaired before they are put back into service. If the headway between the next accessible vehicle is greater than 30 minutes, alternate transportation must be promptly provided for persons with disabilities who require a lift. The DOT ADA regulations require public entities that operate fixed route systems to provide paratransit or other special service to individuals with disabilities that is comparable to the level of service provided to individuals without disabilities who use the fixed route system. 49 CFR §37.121. The DOT ADA service criteria for paratransit operations prohibits capacity constraints by the public transportation agency, which includes substantial numbers of significantly untimely pickups for initial or return trips and substantial numbers of trips with excessive trip lengths. 49 CFR §37.131. Additionally, the DOT regulations require transit agencies to assure that their personnel are trained to proficiency to assure that they operate vehicles and equipment safely and properly assist and treat individuals with disabilities who use the service in a respectful and courteous way. 49 CFR §37.173.

Complainants allege that MARTA has denied them equal access to public buses, entitling them to relief under Title II of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. MARTA has failed to adhere to the provision of service requirements of the DOT ADA implementing regulations. Accessible features of buses have not been maintained and repaired promptly. Disabled individuals have not been accommodated in a timely manner and were disadvantaged due to inoperable or malfunctioning equipment. MARTA has allowed equipment with inoperable lifts to remain in service contrary to DOT ADA regulations, and alternate transportation has not been provided promptly to persons who require lift equipment, necessitating several hours wait for lift-equipped buses. Complainants allege that MARTA has failed to provide comparable paratransit service. The disabled utilizing MARTA's paratransit service are subjected to long delays and excessively long trips before reaching their destination. Additionally, the complainants allege that MARTA has failed to assure that its personnel is trained to proficiency to permit them to properly assist disabled patrons and to offer their services in a respectful and courteous way as required by the DOT ADA regulations. MARTA's failure to adhere to these provisions, and its failure to address repeated complaints by the disabled regarding these issues has resulted in physical injuries, humiliation, emotional distress, pecuniary loss and other injuries to complainants and constitutes discrimination on the basis of disability in the provision of public transportation services in violation of the ADA and Section 504.

III. MARTA Background

The first referendum to create a five-county rapid rail system failed in 1968, and the vote was largely along racial lines. However, in 1971, the City of Atlanta, Fulton and DeKalb counties (political jurisdictions with the largest minority concentration in the region) approved a referendum for a one-percent sales tax to support a rapid rail and feeder bus system, but the mostly white suburban Cobb County and Gwinnett County voters rejected the MARTA system. The Atlanta region has grown to include ten counties. People of color represent a little over 29 percent of the region's population.

MARTA has since grown from 13 rail stations in 1979 to 36 rail stations in 1999, and two additional stations-Sandy Springs and North Springs-along the north line are under construction and are expected to open in December 2000. These two northern rail stations are the only MARTA lines currently under construction.

The Sandy Spring and North Springs stations will serve largely non-MARTA service/taxing area residents, of non-minority origin, and more upper income, as evidenced by the large number of parking spaces at these stations. By MARTA's own statement, the loss of riders in MARTA's core area is supposed to be offset by the increase from the opening of these two stations.

Since 1979, Atlanta, Futlon County, and DeKalb County residents have paid a one-cent MARTA tax amounting to over $40.1 billion. MARTA's operating budget comes from sales tax (46 percent), fares (34 percent), and the Federal Transit Administration and other sources (20 percent). Only Fulton and DeKalb county residents pay for the upkeep and expansion of the system with a one-cent MARTA sales tax. A 1995 rider survey revealed that 78 percent of MARTA's rail and bus riders are African Americans and other people of color. Whites make up 22 percent of MARTA riders. More than 45 percent of MARTA riders live in the city of Atlanta, 14 percent live in the remainder of Fulton County, 25 percent live in DeKalb County, and 16 percent live outside MARTA's service area.

IV. The MARTA's Disparate Treatment of Minorities in its Delivery of Services

A. Routing Diesel Buses Through Minority Communities

MARTA's bus fleet is comprised of approximately 698 buses, 118 of which are clean fuel compressed natural gas or CNG buses. The bus fleet is housed at three bus garages: Laredo (249), Perry (239), and Hamilton (210). MARTA's bus fleet distribution raises equity concerns considering that the Hamilton garage, which serves predominately black South Atlanta, is allocated the smallest bus fleet and minority routes suffer disproportionately from overcrowding. Additionally, the current and planned allocation of types of buses raises some special equity and Title VI concerns. Of the three MARTA garages, the Hamilton facility serves by far the largest concentration of minority bus routes. All of MARTA's bus routes in the Hamilton garage service area are minority routes. All of the buses housed at the Hamilton garage are diesel buses, which are the oldest, most dilapidated, and most pollution-generating buses. MARTA has no plans for several years to bring clean-burning CNG buses to its mostly black areas served by the Hamilton garage. This means that MARTA customers on bus routes with the largest concentration of blacks will have to wait the longest for newer, clean-burning CNG buses.

On the other hand, the two MARTA garages with the largest concentration of non-minority bus routes are either currently served by a full fleet of CNG buses (Perry garage) or plans are currently underway to accommodate CNG buses (Laredo garage). The Laredo garage, located in Decatur, is currently being retrofitted to accommodate CNG buses. On average, the CNG fleet represents the newest and cleanest buses and is equipped with the latest technology.

The benefits and the burdens of MARTA's bus fleet are not equally distributed across MARTA's service area. The benefits of CNG buses (newer equipment, cleaner, latest technology) disproportionately accrue to MARTA service areas with the greatest concentration of non-minority bus routes. Additionally, bus routes serving disproportionate numbers of white passengers, such as the Emory University route, are serviced by new buses only. Conversely, residents in predominately black South Atlanta are disproportionately burdened by the environmental hazards and potential health effects created by MARTA's diesel-only bus fleet, which are both housed in and travel through their communities.

The unequal distribution of benefits and burdens of MARTA's bus fleet is also exemplified by MARTA's operation of a shuttle service for the Atlanta Braves baseball games. MARTA pulls 36 buses from its regular route bus service to provide overwhelmingly white Braves fans with shuttle service to and from the games. Only the buses in perfect condition are utilized to provide this shuttle service. The shuttle service is provided free of charge, and the predominately white riders are also provided free bus-to-rail transfers when boarding the shuttle. Poor, transit-dependent African American riders are often left stranded at MARTA's rail stations because buses that generally service the routes to their homes have been pulled to provide shuttle service for the disproportionately white Braves fans.

The Atlanta metropolitan region is a nonattainment area for ozone, one of the six criteria pollutants listed under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). Transportation is a major contributor to the region's air quality problem. Motor vehicles (i.e., cars, trucks, and buses) account for the primary source for both volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). Mobile source emissions are of special health concern both because of their ubiquitous nature and because emissions occur at ground level in urban street canyons where human activity is greatest (see Patrick L. Kinney et al., "Airborne Concentration of PM.2.5 and Diesel Exhaust Particles on Harlem Sidewalks: A Community-Based Pilot Study," Environmental Health Perspective, vol. 108, no. 3 March 2000).

Atlanta's air pollution has a human cost which is not evenly distributed. Atlanta's Africa n American residents, for example, have a significantly higher prevalence of asthma than the general population (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Asthma Mortality and Hospitalization among Children and Young Adults: United States, 1980-1993." Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (1996): 45: 350-353.) A 1994 Center for Disease Control-sponsored study showed that pediatric emergency department visits at Atlanta Grady Memorial Hospital increased by one-third following peak ozone levels (White, Mary C., Ruth A. Etzel, Wallace D. Wilcox, and Christine Lloyd, "Exacerbation of Childhood Asthma and Ozone Pollution in Atlanta," Environmental Research 65 (1994): 56.). The CDC study also found that the asthma rate among African American children is 26 percent higher than the asthma rate among white children.

Since children with asthma in Atlanta may not have visited the emergency department for their care, the true prevalence of asthma in the community is likely to be higher. A 1999 study, Out of Breath: Health Effects from Ozone in the Eastern United States, from Clean the Air Task Force, a coalition of environmental and consumer groups, linked asthma and respiratory problems and smog. High smog levels are associated with rising respiratory-related hospital admissions and emergency room visits in metropolitan Atlanta (See Robert D. Bullard and Glenn S. Johnson, eds., Just Transportation: Dismantling Race and Class Barriers to Mobility, 1997)

The clustering of pollution-generating diesel buses combined with other polluting industries pose a potential health hazard to minority populations who may already be at greater risks for asthma and other respiratory diseases than the general population. This is especially the case in the mostly African American South Fulton County (See R.D. Bullard, Glenn S. Johnson, and Angel O. Torres, Sprawl City: Race, Politics and Planning in Atlanta, 2000). Persons suffering from asthma are particularly sensitive to the effects of carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxides, particulate matter, ozone, and nitrogen oxides. MARTA's allocation of CNG buses and its plans to retrofit the depots to accommodate CNG buses (with the all-minority bus routes in South Atlanta served last) shows a pattern and practice of discriminating against minorities on the basis of race in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

B. Bus Line Crowding

We are also concerned about the quality of service provided to minority versus non-minority MARTA customers and the distribution of crowded bus lines. In February 2000, MARTA provided a listing of overcrowded bus lines to the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) technical advisory committee on congestion management. MARTA has a total of 126 bus routes of which 53 routes were classified as crowded. Minority bus routes makeup 68 percent of the total bus routes and 72 percent of the crowded bus routes. On the other hand, nonminority bus routes make up 33 percent of the total bus routes and 28 percent of the crowded bus routes. MARTA bus riders on minority routes are more likely to experience overcrowding than the MARTA riders on nonminority bus routes. MARTA has failed to increase its bus fleet for the past decade to relieve this overcrowding.

C. Distribution of Bus Shelters

MARTA's distribution of bus shelters in minority communities also raises Title VI concerns. According to the Title VI Compliance Program (August 1997) submitted by MARTA to the DOT Office of Equal Opportunity, there were 576 bus shelters located inside of the MARTA service zone. The bus routes were classified as minority or non-minority according to FTA guidelines. MARTA reported 267 (46.4%) non-minority and 309 (53.6%) minority shelters.

Analysis was conducted on the shelters using MARTA's own bus routes. There were 125 routes represented in the data. The majority of the routes were minority (81) while only 44 were non-minority. Based on the data, minority routes averaged 8.45 miles in length while non-minority" routes averaged 3.99 miles. Minority routes averaged 3.68 shelters per route and a ratio of 0.46 shelters/mile, while non-minority routes averaged 6.14 shelters per route and a ratio of 0.70 shelters/mile. When studying the individual routes, there is one majority route without shelters (route 65) with a length of 4.26 miles. On the other hand, there are six minority routes (53, 59, 64, 67, 68, and 69) without any shelters at an average length of 5.66 miles and ranging from 2.87 to 6.98 miles. The longest non-minority route (route 125 extends for 20.89 miles) has 15 shelters while the longest minority route (route 180 extends for 17.32 miles) has only one shelter. Additionally, MARTA's placement of used bus shelters in minority communities while placing new bus shelters in white communities raises Title VI concerns.

D. Inadequate Maintenance, Amenities and Security of MARTA Rail Stations Located in Minority Communities

Minorities are shortchanged by MARTA when it comes to maintenance, amenities and security of MARTA rail stations in their communities. The northern-tier MARTA rail stations located in predominately white communities are well maintained and have an abundance of visible security personnel (station managers) at all times. In contrast, the southern-tier and west end MARTA rail stations located in predominately black communities are poorly maintained and security personnel has low visibility or is entirely absent. Rats have been reported at the Ashby Station located in a predominately black Southwest neighborhood of Atlanta. The rats invaded the station because of MARTA's failure to properly maintain the station and promptly repair holes that developed in the station walls. Also at the Ashby Station, as well as other stations serving predominately black MARTA rail passengers, security personnel is conspicuously absent. MARTA in the area of security also shortchanges the Latino community. The Brookhaven station that primarily serves the Latino community has no visible security.

Another case in point is the poor repair and flooding that occurs at the Hightower Station, located in a predominately black community on the MARTA's West line. When it rains this rail station is flooded which necessitates passengers wading through water to reach their destinations. Both the West End and Westlake Stations located African American communities are dirty and in gross disrepair. MARTA's recalcitrance in addressing poor maintenance and security issues at these and other rail stations located in minority communities constitutes disparate treatment based on race under Title VI.

Racial disparities also exist in the provision of amenities at MARTA's rail stations. According to the MARTA's latest Title VI compliance report to FTA, Title VI Compliance Program (August 1997), Schedule Information Telephones (SIT) are located at 23 MARTA rail stations with the exception of the following: Civic Center, Midtown, Garnett, Oakland, East Point, East Lake, Inman Park, King Memorial, Airport, Bankhead, and West Lake. Of the12 rail stations without SIT's, 9 are located in mostly minority areas. SIT's have direct access to MARTA's Customer Information Center. There are also disparities in the provision of TraveLink Kiosks at the rail stations. TraveLink Kiosks are informational computers accessed by touching a screen. The Kiosks provide travelers with information about bus and rail carriers, airlines, state highways, weather, and hotels. MARTA provides bus schedules, fare information, itinerary planning, and next bus available to the user. There are 23 rail stations equipped with TraveLink Kiosks and 13 without. Of those 13 rail stations without Kiosks, 11 are located in mostly minority areas. Additionally, there are racial disparities in the provision of covered parking, weather protection on rail platforms and walkways, informational displays, and atmospheric comforts such as art and music. MARTA's failure to equalize the amenities provided at its rail stations constitutes disparate treatment of minorities in violation of Title VI.

E. Disparate Treatment of Latinos in MARTA's Public Participation Process

The public participation process MARTA used in considering the fare increase is also a cause for concern. The fare increase process did not comply with Title VI nondiscrimination provisions nor with the October 1999 memo from Gordon Linton to FTA and FHWA administrators regarding implementing Title VI requirements in metropolitan and statewide planning (see attachment). MARTA also failed to follow the public participation process that DOT has adopted for assessing transportation equity issues in the Atlanta area as expressed in DOT's Assessment of Environmental Justice Issues and Public Involvement in the Atlanta Metropolitan Area (Phase I Equity Analysis), and Assessment of Environmental Justice Issues in Atlanta Proposed Work Plan (see attachments). The standards adopted by DOT require a public participation process that reaches, empowers, and takes into account low-income and communities of color in transportation decision making. The standards set by DOT require MARTA to assure full and fair participation by all communities in the fare restructuring process, which encompasses timely and effective notification of public meetings and measures to assure equal opportunity to participate at public meetings. MARTA failed in this very basic public participation standard by not providing timely and effective notification of the public hearings on the fare increase to all impacted communities, and failed to assure equal opportunity for participation at the hearings.

MARTA provided inadequate notice to permit full and fair participation at the public hearings. Announcement of the public hearings on the proposed fare increase was conspicuously absent from MARTA's web site until Environmental Justice Resource Center (EJRC) staff brought it to their attention, and MARTA failed to provide notice in the MARTA publication Rider's Digest utilized to alert the public of upcoming public meetings. MARTA's failure to provide timely and effective information regarding the public hearings is particularly stark when considering the lack of notification and outreach to the Atlanta Latino community.

MARTA's failure to provide notification of the public hearings for the proposed fare increase to alert the Atlanta Latino community violates Title VI. The proposed fare increase ads ran in the Atlanta Journal Constitution in English only, and were posted on the MARTA's web page also in English only. MARTA did not take the time to alert Latinos in Atlanta of proposed changes. Public notices and announcements were not included in local Spanish language media, including newspapers and radio. The result was an alarming lack of participation by Latinos in the public hearing process. During the three public hearings held on the proposed fare increase, not a single member of the Latino community testified, even though one of the largest Latino communities in the city of Atlanta is located within feet of the MARTA headquarters (2424 Piedmont Road, NE) at the Lindberg Rail Station. Additionally, MARTA failed to make English-Spanish translation services available at the public hearings even though MARTA received considerable advance notice that a segment of the Latino community would need translation services for meaningful participation.

V. Disparate Impact of the MARTA Decision to Raise its Fares

The recent MARTA fare increase follows a pattern of decision making that largely benefits affluent white suburban residents, while disproportionately and adversely affecting low-income, transit-dependent, minority, and urban core residents. On June 19, 2000 the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) board approved a $307 million operating budget that raised its one-way cash fare from $1.50 to $1.75--a 16.7 percent increase.1 (See attached minutes from June 19 MARTA Board meeting). The weekly transit pass jumps from $12 to $13 (an 8.3 percent increase); monthly passes increase from $45 to $52.50 (a 16.7 percent increase); and half-price senior citizens fares from 75 cents to 85 cents (a 13.3 percent increase). The fare increase will have a negative, disproportionate, discriminatory effect on MARTA's largely minority, transit-dependent riders, and will cause irreparable harm.

A. The Impact of the Fare Increase

After learning of the proposed MARTA fare hike in a February 18, 2000 Atlanta Journal Constitution article, MATEC began to investigate the potential impact that such a fare increase would have on MARTA's low-income and minority riders. The fare increase reportedly will raise approximately $12 million per year for MARTA to support the opening of two new suburban train stations on the North line. The two new suburban stations add just two miles of track at the cost of $464 million in construction and $4 million annually to operate. However, any benefit to the agency is likely to be outweighed by the substantial losses of income and mobility for the transit-dependent that will result in the loss of employment and housing, and the inability to reach medical care, food sources, educational opportunities, and other basic needs of life.

On the average, a ten percent increase in bus fare would result in a four percent decrease in ridership (American Public Transportation Association, Fare Elasticity and Its Application to Forecasting Transit Demand, August, 1991). The proposed fare increase would fall heaviest on the transit dependent, low-income, minority riders that make up the vast majority of MARTA customers.

MARTA's transit dependent population, which would be disproportionately burdened by the proposed fare increase, differs significantly from those riders who use the system's northern-tier stations (Buckhead, Dunwoody, Medical Center, Sandy Springs, and North Springs). For example, MARTA's transit-dependent riders are typically children and elderly, lower-income, carless or own fewer automobiles, from larger households, located near transit stations and generally nonwhite. In 1995, 45 percent of MARTA customers were black females and 32 percent were black males. In 1999, black females (39 percent) and black males (34 percent) comprised the largest group of MARTA riders. White female riders made up 9 percent and white male riders made up 15 percent of MARTA's total customers in 1999 (MARTA, 5th Annual Quality of Service Survey, September, 1999).

Whites comprised over 89 percent and blacks 9 percent of the populations living within a one-mile radius of MARTA's five north rail stations. This compares to 35 percent of whites and 62 percent of blacks who live within a one-mile radius of MARTA's stations system-wide (Goro Mitchell, "Transportation, Air Pollution, and Social Equity in Atlanta," Status of Black Atlanta, Clark Atlanta University, 1999).

A 1995 report prepared by Georgia Tech professors concluded that the residents who travel on MARTA's northern-tier rail lines are "more working ages, typically male, of higher income and typically white (by more than two to one)" than passengers who travel on the southern-tier rail lines. They also are more likely to own more cars, drive alone and travel long distances to MARTA stations, and pay cash or tokens than all other MARTA riders (Chris Nelson, et al., MARTA Impact Study, North and Northeast Lines Travel Market Analysis, 1995). More importantly, MARTA's northern-tier customers are "more sensitive to MARTA service than to fares." Professor Nelson and his colleague conclude that as MARTA expands, northern-tier ridership will likely increase regardless of fare hikes.

In 1995, 44 percent of MARTA customers had incomes under $20,000. In 1999, 33 percent of MARTA riders had incomes under $20,000. On the other hand, the share of MARTA customers who had incomes over $50,000 increased from 13 percent in 1995 to 22 percent in 1999 (MARTA, 5th Annual Quality of Service Survey, September, 1999).

MARTA's own rider surveys show that African Americans made up 77 percent of its customers in 1995 and 73 percent in 1999 (MARTA, 5th Annual Quality of Service Survey, September, 1999). On the other hand, whites share of MARTA riders increased from 22 percent in 1995 to 24 percent in 1999. On average, African Americans in the Atlanta region who ride MARTA have lower incomes, spend more per capita on transportation, and are more likely to be carless than their white counterparts. Only 6.3 percent of whites compared to 26.5 percent of blacks who live in the MARTA service area are carless. Black Atlantans earn only 60 percent of the income earned by whites in the region. The black-white income discrepancy holds true in the two counties served by MARTA. For example, blacks in Fulton County earn only 47 percent of whites. Blacks in DeKalb earn 71 percent of white DeKalb County residents. U.S. Census Bureau. Census of Population and Housing. Population and Housing Characteristics for Census Tracts and Block Numbering Areas. Atlanta, GA MSA. 1990.

While MARTA plans and cooperates in the development of a regional transit system, it should not discriminate against its low-income, transit-dependent mostly African American customers. The state of Georgia has invested billions of dollars in roads, particularly in the mostly white, northern suburbs. MARTA is the only metropolitan transit agency in the country that receives no funding from the state government (See Arthur C. Nelson and Jeffrey Milgroom, "Regional Growth Management and Central City Vitality: Comparing Development Patterns in Atlanta, Georgia and Portland, Oregon," in Fritz Wagner ed., Urban Revitalization: Policies and Programs, 1995; Arthur C. Nelson, Deciding Factors for Regional Decision-Making in Metro Atlanta, June 1999). A recent Brookings Institution report on metro Atlanta concludes that "public transit, overwhelmingly relied upon by minorities and low-income people who tend to live in the southern parts of the city and region, is relatively underfunded and constrained by suburban resistance" (Brookings Institution, Moving Beyond Sprawl: The Challenge for Metropolitan Atlanta, 2000).

B. Analysis of the MARTA Fare Increase

In April, 2000, the Environmental Justice Resource Center (EJRC) at Clark Atlanta University conducted a preliminary analysis of the MARTA fare structure. These were the EJRC's conclusions:

The MATEC entered into alliances with persons who worked on the Labor/Community Strategy Center Bus Riders Union et al. v. Los Angeles MTA case in federal court in California. The EJRC retained an independent transportation consultant Thomas A. Rubin (who worked on the Los Angeles MTA case) to review MARTA's budget figures. Rubin's findings are consistent with the findings of the EJRC.

We have enclosed a letter from attorneys with the Environmental Defense Fund, Robert Garcia and Jerilyn Mendoza, who are also in alliance with the coalition. Ms. Mendoza testified at the May 3, 2000 MARTA public hearing. Robert Garcia worked with the NAACP LDF Los Angles office on the historic $1.5 billion class action Title VI settlement against the Los Angles MTA. The coalition is also in alliance with the Los Angeles-based Labor/Community Strategy Center and the Bus Riders Union.

Representatives from MATEC presented oral testimony (and submitted written comments) at the May 3, 2000 MARTA public hearing during the morning session held at the MARTA headquarters and the evening session held at City Hall. After the May 25, 2000 MARTA board meeting, transportation consultant Tom Rubin completed and submitted a budget analysis. Rubin's preliminary analysis and findings on MARTA's fare structure are consistent with those presented in the EJRC's initial report. Rubin's major findings are summarized as follows (see attached analysis and charts):

The transit agency should not balance an appeal for new suburban riders on the backs of its mostly African American customers who can least afford to pay.

C. MARTA Has No Need to Raise Fares

MARTA's fare increase raises serious equity questions under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its implementing regulations because the fare increase would adversely impact African Americans, which comprise 73% of MARTA's ridership, and there is no business necessity for a fare increase. MARTA officials have provided erroneous information to the public regarding the legal and statutory basis for the proposed fare hike. Both the general public and the MARTA board have been misled into believing that the fare hike is mandated by the 35% provision in the MARTA Act. Yet there is no legal or fiscal reason for the proposed fare hike.

MARTA's claim that the fare increase is necessitated by the agency's budget shortfall is disputed by transportation consultant Tom Rubin's budgetary analysis. (See attached).

According to Rubin's analysis under the terms of the MARTA Act, MARTA must comply with two ratio tests:

  • 50 % of the local sales and use taxes received within Fulton and Dekalb Counties must be utilized to fund capital development projects (the test can be applied over a period of several years, not necessarily to each fiscal year individually)
  • Transit related revenues, including fares, advertising, parking, and other sources, must be no less than 35% of the operating costs from the preceding year

Even if no fare increase of any type is implemented, MARTA will be in full compliance with both of these tests throughout the fiscal year that will end June 30, 2001 (FY01). Baring extremely unexpected negative events, even if no fare increase of any type is implemented, MARTA will be in full compliance with both of these tests through the fiscal year that will end June 30, 2002 (FY02). The tests are exceeding by a very significant safety factor in both years, with the lowest safety margin well in excess of $4 million. MARTA has no shortage of cash resources that can be utilized to meet these transit-operating requirements in the absence of a fare increase.

MARTA estimates that the fare increase would result in its transit ridership being reduced by 5%, and anticipates a gain in ridership of 5% from the opening of the two new northern-tier rail stations, which will cost $464 million. The "lost" 5% are far more likely to be drawn from the poor, minority, transit dependent residents of Fulton and Dekalb Counties, who will stop using MARTA because the additional fare is beyond their financial capacities. In contrast, the "new" 5% are far more likely to be drawn from the affluent, "choice" riders who will drive to the new stations and utilize the 3,400 new parking spaces, less minority, and more likely to be residents of counties that do not provide sales tax support to MARTA.

MARTA has available less discriminatory alternatives to a fare increase. DOT's Title VI regulations prohibit an agency that receives DOT funding from engaging in actions that have an adverse disparate impact on protected classes (race, color and national origin) for which there is no business necessity and for which there are less discriminatory alternatives available. MARTA as a recipient of DOT funds is required to consider less discriminatory alternatives to the fare increase. MARTA, in approving the budget with the fare increase rejected revenue alternatives such as trimming its administrative staff, eliminating the station manager program (which replaced a more cost efficient and safer rail security program), increasing long-term parking fees at overnight lots (currently charges $3 daily), charging parking fees (currently free), charging an end of the line station fee, increasing advertising, using concessions, and reducing fare evasion, all of which are potential sources of funding which could have eliminated the fare increase. MARTA's rejection of the parking fee alternatives demonstrates that MARTA officials are more concerned about negatively impacting its customers who have cars and park for free (disproportionately white riders) than they are concerned about its customers who are transit-dependent and do not own cars (disproportionately black and other minority riders).

VI. The MARTA's Disparate Treatment of the Disabled in its Delivery of Services

The MARTA has pursued a pattern and practice of discriminating against the disabled in its delivery of services. During the MARTA public hearings on the fare increase and MARTA board meetings public comment period, a steady stream of disabled transit riders expressed grave concern with the services offered to the disabled. The concerns expressed at the public hearings and board meetings are echoed in the attached affidavits from disabled MARTA riders.

Many of the problems experienced by MARTA's disabled riders result from inadequate provision of lift-equipped bus services. Buses often are not lift-equipped or the lift-equipment is inoperable or malfunctioning. MARTA often provides faulty communications listing buses as lift-equipped, which do not have lift-equipment. Also, MARTA buses are deceptively marked with disabled stickers, but they are not lift equipped. This miscommunication causes unreasonable delays for wheelchair-bound patrons. Wheelchair patrons often have to wait 3-4 hours for appropriately equipped buses or a paratransit van. Wheelchair patrons often cannot get home at night on MARTA because the last buses leaving the rail stations are not lift-equipped. Disabled riders have notified MARTA's service department that bus lifts are broken, yet MARTA has been unresponsive and continues to use buses that cannot service riders with physical disabilities.

Other service inadequacies include: insufficient number of kneeling buses to serve disabled riders; insufficient numbers of benches and bus shelters in neighborhoods with large populations of disabled/senior citizens; dry rotted or broken seat belts used by disabled passengers; inoperable elevators at MARTA rail stations; and failure to provide appropriate signage at rail stations for the visually impaired. The paratransit system is also inadequate and fails to provide sufficient numbers of vans to accommodate the disabled who need paratransit service. Also, the disabled utilizing MARTA's paratransit service are subjected to long delays and excessively long trips before reaching their destinations. MARTA drivers of fixed route service as well as paratransit service are inadequately trained to use boarding and safety equipment for individuals with disabilities, which has resulted in physical injuries to disabled riders. Bus drivers often fail or refuse to pick up disabled passengers waiting at bus stops and are discourteous to the disabled when they are successful in securing space on an accessible bus.

The MARTA has a practice, policy and/or custom of not performing regular and necessary maintenance and service on mechanical bus lifts that are required to provide access to persons with mobility impairments or on the safety equipment such as straps and clamps, designed to protect persons in wheel-chairs or motor scooters while they are on buses as required under DOT's ADA regulations. The MARTA's failure to adhere to the dictates of the ADA and Section 504 in its provision of nondiscriminatory public transit services to the disabled has resulted in physical injury, humiliation, time lost from education and work, expenses for alternative transportation, telephone charges, emotional distress and pain and suffering. MARTA's acts and omissions described herein limit the opportunities of the disabled to participate in numerous programs, activities, and services including work, school, church, medical appointments and social engagements, and imposes an illegal obstacle to their mobility.

There is evidence that while MARTA's delivery of services to the disabled is poor overall, service inadequacies to the disabled are greatest in minority communities, which implicates Title VI as well as the ADA and Section 504. Innumerable complaints have been made to MARTA's customer service line by residents from predominately African American South Atlanta, yet MARTA does not acknowledge that they have received any complaints from South Atlanta residents regarding inadequate services for disabled patrons and continues to deny them full and equal access to its bus services.

VII. Relief Sought

Complainants request that the Department order the MARTA to:

(1) Correct the disparity in service delivery to minority communities by:

  • Dispatching CNG buses equally from the three bus depots
  • Equipping all bus depots with CNG or other clean fuel buses and technology
  • Distributing buses in a equitable manner to correct overcrowding disparities on minority lines
  • Immediately constructing more bus shelters on minority lines
  • Equalizing maintenance and amenities of minority rail stations with those serving white communities
  • Distributing security personnel in an equitable manner at MARTA rail stations
  • Providing all MARTA publications in Spanish and English
  • Providing public notices and announcements to Spanish language media
  • Providing English-Spanish language translators at all MARTA meetings
  • Providing adequate time for persons who speak in Spanish and utilize translators to address the MARTA Board; and by training MARTA drivers in rudimentary Spanish to assist Spanish-speaking customers

(2) Cease and desist from implementing the fare increase:

  • Reduce fares to correct subsidization of white commuters by poor, transit-dependent African American riders
  • Initiate an aggressive and comprehensive campaign to increase ridership
  • Require that an equity impact analysis be completed before any new bus or rail lines come on line or service cuts take effect

(3) Correct the disparity in service delivery to disabled riders by:

  • Maintaining in operative condition features of their facilities and vehicles that make them readily accessible and usable by individuals with disabilities
  • Performing regular maintenance checks to assure that accessibility features are in working order and prompt repairs are made if accessibility features are damaged or out of order
  • Providing accommodations to disabled individuals who would otherwise use the accessibility features if they were in proper working condition
  • Establishing a system of regular and frequent maintenance checks of lifts sufficient to determine if they are operative and have them repaired prior to returning the buses with malfunctioning or inoperable lift equipment to service
  • Investigating the spare bus ratio and the condition of spare buses to assure reliable services during breakdowns of buses
  • Providing prompt alternative transportation for persons with disabilities who require a lift if the headway between the next accessible vehicle is more than 30 minutes
  • Providing sufficient numbers of benches and bus shelters in neighborhoods with high populations of disabled MARTA riders
  • Providing paratransit services comparable to the level of service provided to individuals without disabilities who use the fixed route system by eliminating significantly untimely pickups and substantial numbers of trips with excessive trip lengths
  • Providing proper signage for the visually impaired at MARTA rail stations; maintaining and promptly repairing elevators in MARTA rail stations
  • Assuring that personnel are trained to proficiency allowing them to operate vehicles and equipment safely and to properly assist and treat individuals with disabilities who use the service in a respectful and courteous manner.

VIII. Conclusion

Because of the substantial public interest involved, the MATEC and the complainants request that the Department expedite the investigation of this administrative charge.

Respectfully submitted,

Metropolitan Atlanta Transportation Equity Coalition
Sherrill Marcus

Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Rev. Fred. D. Taylor, Coordinator of Direct Action

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
John Evans, President Dekalb County Branch NAACP

Rainbow/PUSH Coalition
Linda Harper, Assistant to Regional Director

The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 732
Elmer E. Hamilton, President/Business Agent

Second Chance Community Services, Inc.
Reverend O.C. White, President/CEO

Youth Task Force
Tanisa Foxworth, Co-Director

Rebel Forest Neighborhood Task Force
Ms. Ruthie Walls

Campbellton Road Coalition
Irving Harris, Co-Chairperson for Steering Committee and Vice-Chairperson for NPU - P

Center for Environmental Public Awareness
NaTaki Osborne, Co-Founder/Director

Santa Fe Villas Tenant's Association
Flora Tommie, President

Rainbow/PUSH Coalition
Joseph Beasley, Southern Regional Director

 

 

Notes

1. The MARTA Board first voted on and rejected the proposed FY01 budget with the fare increase on May 25. 2000. The budget was approved on revote on June 19, 2000 after an amendment was added that pledged that the MARTA Board would seek additional funding to eliminate the fare increase from the budget prior to January 1, 2001 when the fare increase would go into effect.

2. The procedure utilized to produce cost-of-living indexed (COLI) cash fares was to divide the nominal cash fare by the ACCRA COLI values for the third and fourth quarters of the calendar year 1999. For example, for MARTA, the adult cash fare of $1.50 was divided by the COLI index of 1.038 to produce $1.45.