This case is pertinent to Los Angeles county and its surrounding areas. MTA operates bus and rail lines throughout downtown LA and surrounding suburbs. For this particular case, MTA was looking to expand its Blue Line light rail and its Red Line subway.
Judge Terry Hatter, Jr., Federal District Court Judge in Los Angeles (9th Circuit of the US Court of Appeals), presided over the case. He issued a temporary restraining order on MTA's proposed policies and stopped the MTA from increasing bus fares (held for 6 months).
I was unable to find any previous court cases that relate to the MTA or associated LA Transportation groups and minority communities. It seems as though this was the first of its kind in Los Angeles County.
Since this case, the Labor/Community Strategy Center has been working to try and reach more of the LA constituency. For example, on October 5, 1996, it organized the largest march for civil rights and mass transportation in LA history. It has also joined with other minority groups to support the "Billions for Buses" campaign with the demands to: (1) double the existing bus fleet from 2,000 to 4,000, (2) establish an electric bus pilot program to reduce air pollution, (3) to cut bus fares and drop the monthly bus pass price down to $20 (from $42), (4) and freeze funding for a discriminatory rail system that steals funds from the bus system (LCSC Homepage).
Advocacy groups, like the Labor/Community Strategy Center have also had to deal with Caltrans, the California Department of Transportation, and its regional affiliates. In its 1998 Regional Transportation Plan, the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) grappled with several important methodological issues in the consideration of equity in transportation planning. SCAG is required to produce a Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) with a minimum 20-year planning horizon, every three years. SCAG also produces a Regional Transportation Improvement Program (RTIP) every two years. In March 1997, a coalition of groups, including the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Natural Resources Defense Council, the NAACP and the Bus Riders Union, sent SCAG a letter of intent to sue for their handling of Title VI and environmental justice in the Preliminary RTP released in February 1997. The coalition observed that the Preliminary RTP appeared to offer few benefits to those living below the poverty line. The coalition also criticized SCAG for failing to involve low income and minority communities in the planning process. To avoid a lawsuit, SCAG agreed to allow members of this coalition of groups in the planning process and to offer more public meetings and create more avenues for low-income and minority communities to get involved in decision-making processes.
I did look further into the role of the LA City Council in this particular settlement. I could not find an exact correlation although I did find that there is a Department for Neighborhood Empowerment in Los Angeles. This committee most definitely has a relation to the case as it states in its mission statement that it aims to "promote public participation in government and make government more responsive to local needs by creating, nurturing, and supporting a citywide system of grass-roots, independent, and participatory neighborhood councils."
The Federal Department of Transportation was also involved, but in a very limited way. I was able to find letters from the LDF to the DOT after the Consent Decree was ordered, in which the LDF gave the DOT various recommendations for how to better transportation equality and strengthen civil rights enforcement. To access one such letter, please click here: www.edf.org/documents/2825_DOT_transitequality.pdf.
The LCSC has also recently been working on its Clean Air, Clean Lungs, Clean Buses Campaign and its attempts to pressure the LA City Council and MTA to enact a "bus only lane" project to make the public bus system a more positive and cost-effective alternative mode of transportation. To learn more about the programs that MTA is currently exploring, please go forward to the HOW page.
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