Bus access protests target Dayton Mall

Same group once targeted Beavercreek about Fairfield Commons access.

The civil rights group that battled the city of Beavercreek over allowing bus stops near the Mall at Fairfield Commons plans a lawsuit and more protests — this time over public bus access to Dayton Mall.

LEAD, or Leaders for Equality and Action in Dayton, wants Columbus-based Glimcher Realty Trust, the owner of Dayton Mall, to allow Greater Dayton Regional Transportation Authority buses to stop at mall entrances.

A protest is scheduled at the mall Saturday following one there last week.

Mall policy is to allow only RTA vans that are part of Project Mobility, a door-to-door service for the disabled, to have direct access to mall entrances. Those buses each hold up to only 11 people.

There’s a “limited stop” location at the far end of the Mall’s parking lot near Mall Ring Road, a loop drive around the Mall. Only three routes can stop there — they draw from the eastern side of Dayton, Centerville and Kettering, Miamisburg, and from the Austin Landing interchange area.

Other buses — mainline buses that carry most of the riders — also carry the elderly and others with less severe disabilities. Riders include mall workers, too.

The nearest they can stop is a block-and- a-half, two busy streets, and a parking lot away.

Rather than run what amounts to an obstacle course, riders should be allowed to exit a bus at the mall doors, said Wilma Righter, 79, a retired mental health counselor and LEAD organizer.

Righter said she isn’t now dependent on buses for travel, but has suffered a stroke and could be public transit dependent in the near future.

Righter said the group is planning a legal complaint based on equal access for the disabled, rights guaranteed under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Frank Ecklar, RTA’s director of planning, said that the mall allowed buses at the entrances until 2003. Mall operators then declined to allow the buses so close because they said there were too many of them and that they blocked fire lanes, Ecklar said.

Glimcher Realty Trust did not respond to a request for comment.

Ecklar said that RTA has been trying to negotiate better access with Glimcher Realty Trust since 2010, but so far there’s been no agreement.

“The bottom line is the existing bus stop we have is a limited access stop,” Ecklar said.

Marie Geisel, vice president of LEAD, said the group is focused on social justice issues and its members represent 19 religious congregations in the region. “Transportation is a civil rights issue in many respects,” Geisel said.

The city of Beavercreek backed off resisting the bus stops when faced with the risk of losing more than $10 million in federal highway funding.

The Federal Highway Administration Office of Civil Rights 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.”

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