Minority bus riders and community groups from Alameda and Contra Costa counties filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday accusing the Bay Area’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission of maintaining a “separate and unequal transit system” that favors white suburban commuters. The lawsuit is modeled on a 1994 Los Angeles case filed against the Metropolitan Transportation Authority by the Bus Riders Union. The settlement in that case resulted in a federal consent decree mandating improved services for urban riders. The Bay Area lawsuit alleges that the commission has disproportionately funded Caltrain and BART Ã¢â?¬â?? rail services used predominantly by white suburbanites with relatively high incomes Ã¢â?¬â?? while under-funding the East Bay’s AC Transit bus system, used mainly by low-income minority city dwellers. According to the lawsuit Ã¢â?¬â?? filed on behalf of three minority riders from East Oakland and Richmond, the nonprofit Communities for a Better Environment, and Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 192 Ã¢â?¬â?? the commission has channeled a per-person public subsidy of $2.78 to AC Transit riders, $6.14 to BART riders, and $13.79 to Caltrain riders.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority must put 134 new buses into its Metro Rapid fleet under a legal order issued Thursday. The agency’s ability to pay for the vehicles by eliminating regular local buses on the routes the new Rapid lines serve is limited by the order. The court action by Special Master Donald Bliss is a victory for the Bus Riders Union. Earlier this year, the transit advocacy group accused the MTA of flouting a consent decree requiring the agency to improve bus service for Los Angeles County residents. … Part of the agency’s response to the decree was the Rapid Bus service, which features bright red vehicles that make fewer stops than ordinary buses. “The MTA had implemented the Rapid Buses by reducing local services,” said Manuel Criollo, a Bus Riders Union organizer. Under Bliss’ order, the MTA must pay for the new buses mostly with funds currently designated for services such as light rail and the subway that are unrelated to the agreement. The MTA is allowed to recoup only a third of the costs by reducing local service along the Rapid routes. Steven Carnevale, the county attorney who represents the MTA, said it would cost about $20 million to operate the new buses Ã¢â?¬â?? at a time when the agency is strapped for funds.