Feds rule against city of Beavercreek in bus stop case

Beavercreek could lose millions of dollars in transportation funding if the city fails to act on Federal Highway Administration recommendations to revisit bus stops near the Mall at Fairfield Commons.

At stake is at least $10.7 million in federal funding the city is depending on during the next five years to fund $19 million in road projects.

The Federal Highway Administration’s Office of Civil Rights on Thursday ruled that the “African Americans have faced discriminatory impact as a result of the city’s decision to deny the RTA’s application to install bus stops along Pentagon Boulevard in the City.”

In 2011, city council voted 6-0 against adding Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority bus stops along Pentagon Boulevard near the Mall at Fairfield Commons and the Soin Medical Center.

“A prudent city would implement the recommendations,” Ellis Jacobs, a senior attorney for Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc. said. “Clearly there is some steel behind this.”

Municipalities that run programs and activities funded with federal dollars are banned from excluding or discriminating against a person based on race, color or national origin under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The federal investigation was triggered by a 252-page complaint filed by Leaders for Equality and Action in Dayton (LEAD) in August 2011 alleging the council’s vote against adding the bus stops in March 2011 was discriminatory and prevented some minority workers from obtaining jobs or seeking medical treatment in those areas.

“This is a first step,” Rev. Bruce Burns Sr., LEAD president and pastor of Peoples Community CME Church of Dayton, said of the ruling. “It says you can’t discriminate against people in transportation, you can’t keep people out of a community.”

The city is in receipt of the letter and is reviewing it, Steve McHugh, city attorney, said in an e-mail.

“The letter sets forth a number of design focused recommendations for the City Council to study as to RTA’s request for 3 transit stops,” McHugh said.”The letter does not find intentional discrimination by the city.”

During the discussion about the bus stops, council members pointed out that the vast majority of Beavercreek city residents who contacted the council were against the RTA stops as well as a lack of sufficient ridership studies. They also cited problems that they say occur at malls with bus stops..

The city staff had approved the RTA proposals, saying they conformed to the city ordinance for bus stops. The council, however, chose to add 19 more criteria for the RTA to meet, including video surveillance cameras and police call boxes at all stops, heated and air-conditioned shelters, billing RTA for police services, and requiring a $150,000 deposit from RTA in case new traffic signals were needed because of the stops.

In every instance, the investigators found the city presented no evidence that these criteria “were necessary to meeting a legitimate, important goal integral to the city’s mission.” Whether intentional or not, the investigators said the city offered no reasonable evidence the criteria were needed.

Transit riders wishing to access the mall or other businesses near it have to walk about 1.5 miles from the Wright State University bus stop to the mall entrance. Part of the walk is along the six-lane North Fairfield Road from Colonel Glenn Highway to Pentagon Boulevard, where there is no sidewalk.

The highway administration letter made four recommendations to bring the city into compliance.

  • Develop and implement a Transit Stops Application process that does not discriminate whether intentionally or unintentionally.
  • The Ohio Department of Transportation will monitor Beavercreek and provide technical assistance.
  • The Federal Highway Transportation Ohio Division Office will coordinate with ODOT to ensure that Beavercreek develops and implements the Title VI compliance process.
  • The city will re-hear RTA's proposal for three bus stops and will not require the transit company to meet additional design criteria imposed by the council in March 2011.

“The intention of this letter is to provide the city with an opportunity to correct the Title VI noncompliance …informally through the recommendations listed above,” Warren S. Whitlock, associate administrator for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, wrote.

Beavercreek has 90 days to come into compliance or the highway administration “may seek to effect compliance through suspension or termination of federal highway financial assistance to the city…,” the letter stated.

Mark Doneghy, executive director of RTA said he’s pleased the Federal High Administration confirmed the transit authority’s position regarding the bus stops.

“Our focus at this point will be to support the effort to achieve compliance as a partner with the city. We look forward to that happening as soon as possible,” Doneghy said Thursday.

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