Our 2005 federal class action lawsuit against the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) alleged that MTC violated federal and state civil rights laws by channeling funds in favor of BART and Caltrain commuters while denying equitable funding to AC Transit bus riders of color. BART and Caltrain passengers, who are disproportionately white and affluent, received a per passenger subsidy of $6.14 and $13.79, respectively, for each trip they make. AC Transit riders, on the other hand, 80% of whom are people of color, received a public subsidy of only $2.78. After trial, a panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against us in an opinion that has been widely criticized by academic commentators and civil rights advocates for its view that race discrimination was a thing of the past.
Our 2010 administrative complaint against the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) led the Federal Transit Administration to find merit in the assertion of our client, the LA Bus Riders Union, that Metro’s elimination of hundreds of thousands of hours of bus service, while expanding rail service, disproportionately harmed low-income Latino riders. We had previously represented the Bus Riders Union in its Ninth Circuit appeal of the termination of the consent decree it won in its historic 1994 Title VI class action lawsuit against Metro.
Our groundbreaking 2009 civil rights and Environmental Justice administrative complaint with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) challenged the controversial BART Oakland Airport Connector project. Agreeing with our charge that BART violated federal civil rights rules in building this half-billion-dollar rail link through East Oakland that did not benefit local low-income residents of color, FTA took strong action. It not only withdrew $70 million in federal funding from the project, reallocating it to service improvements for transit riders across the Bay Area, but also took the occasion to recommit itself to civil rights enforcement and to update its nationwide rules implementing Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and President Clinton’s Order on Environmental Justice.