May 23, 2019
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Feds Launch Civil Rights Investigation Into CA. Transportation Dept.

 FTA Investigating BART for Potential Civil Rights Violations

Oakland Airport Connector Complaint Leads to Broader Title VI Probe
San Francisco, CA—The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Office of Civil Rights
will conduct an on-site compliance review of BART’s entire Title VI program “within
the next several months,” based in part on a complaint filed by transit policy experts
and community advocacy groups. That complaint charged that in the rush to build
the controversial Oakland Airport Connector (OAC), BART officials were evading
well-established civil rights obligations.
The controversial half-billion dollar connector would run the 3.2 miles between
BART's Coliseum Station and the Oakland International Airport. It would replace the
existing, successful AirBART bus service which charges a fare of $3. The OAC plan
calls for charging a one-way fare of up to $6, doubling the hardship for low-wage
airport employees and providing no local connections.
A letter from FTA to Public Advocates Inc. staff attorney Guillermo Mayer informing
him of the action reads in part:
“The specific issues in your complaint are being addressed from a broader
perspective by this compliance review, with the intent of resolving any issues
of non-compliance identified. If we make findings of deficiencies, FTA will
monitor activities until we determine that the deficiencies noted are
“We’ll have to wait and see what FTA finds, but the fact they find this case worthy of
comprehensive federal review is a giant step forward,” said Mayer. “It also sends a
strong message to agencies like BART and MTC that they’re going to have to start
taking their civil rights obligations more seriously.”
Title VI of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits recipients of federal funding
from discriminating in their programs and activities. 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 fare changes, as well as improvements
associated with the project and its alternatives. This expressly includes
discriminatory impacts on minority low-income populations.
The original complaint, filed by Public Advocates on behalf of TransForm, Urban
Habitat and Genesis, asserted that BART failed to evaluate whether the planned
OAC will have such a discriminatory impact. If the answer is yes, BART is required
to explore less discriminatory alternatives that meet the needs of the project at a
lower cost to taxpayers.
“We are fighting for a strong, sustainable BART, one that meets the needs of all Bay
Area residents,” said John Knox White, Program Manager for TransForm. “This
move by the FTA validates our concerns that the OAC planning process has not
openly presented key information about a project that we feel will lead to future fare
increases and service cuts on the BART system.”
Advocacy groups and community residents have repeatedly asked BART to analyze
and consider an alternative to the OAC. They argue that the RapidBART alternative
proposed by TransForm would provide the same service in a more affordable and
fair manner, freeing-up hundreds of millions of flexible transportation dollars that
could be used for desperately needed transit operations in East Oakland and
throughout the Bay Area. Putting money into existing operations ensures that
minority and low-income populations most dependent on transit have the access to
affordable housing, jobs, doctors and healthy markets on which opportunity
“This should serve as a wakeup call that the process goes wrong when it excludes
environmental justice communities, and if the needs of low-income people of color
are not addressed,” said Urban Habitat’s Bob Allen. “This action by FTA shows that
the federal government is serious about protecting rights.”
FTA Letter Original complaint Complaint press release
Public Advocates Inc.
Public Advocates Inc. is a nonprofit law firm and advocacy organization that
challenges the systemic causes of poverty and racial discrimination by
strengthening community voices in public policy and achieving tangible legal
victories advancing education, housing and transit equity.
􀂃 On the Web:
􀂃 Contact: Guillermo Mayer, Staff Attorney,;
415-431-7430, ext. 309
TransForm (formerly TALC, the Transportation and Land Use Coalition) works
to create world-class public transportation and walkable communities in the
Bay Area and beyond. Since its founding in 1997, TransForm has advocated for
increased funding to support transportation choices in the Bay Area.
􀂃 On the Web:
􀂃 Contact: John Knox White, Program Director,;
510-740-3150 ext. 371
Urban Habitat
Urban Habitat builds power in low-income communities and communities of color
by combining education, advocacy, research and coalition building to advance
environmental, economic and social justice in the Bay Area.
􀂃 On the Web:
􀂃 Contact: Bob Allen, Transportation & Housing Program Director,, 510-839-9510, ext. 312
Genesis is a regional, faith- and value-based community organization in the Bay
Area. Members represent religious congregations, associations, union locals, and
other community organizations. Genesis is affiliated with the Gamaliel
Foundation, an international network of faith and value based organizations.
􀂃 On the Web:
􀂃 Contact: Marcia Lovelace, (510)593-6824
Contact: Wynn Hausser, 650-619-1032,
(organizational contacts at end of release)

STORY TAGS: feds, federal government, investigation, ca, california, transportation department, bart, discrimination, racism


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