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March 2011 Transit Cooperative Research Program Sponsored by the Federal Transit Administration Responsible Senior Program Officer: Gwen Chisholm Smith Legal Research Digest 35 Reductions in transit Service or Increases in Fares: Civil Rights, ADA, Regulatory, and Environmental Justice Implications This report was prepared under TCRP Project J-5, "Legal Aspects of Transit and Intermodal Transportation Programs," for which the Transportation Research Board is the agency coordinating the research. The report was prepared by Larry W. Thomas, Attorney-at-Law. James B. McDaniel, TRB Counsel for Legal Research Projects, was the principal investigator and content editor. The Problem and Its Solution ations to accommodate budget shortfalls. In this con- text, transit agencies are reviewing staffing, programs, The nation's 6,000 plus transit agencies need to have and the nature and extent of the services they provide. access to a program that can provide authoritatively Often, the only option is to reduce services and/or researched, specific, limited-scope studies of legal is- staff. Such restrictions in service or fare increases are sues and problems having national significance and likely to adversely affect those who are most depen- application to their business. Some transit programs dent on transit. Statutes, regulations, and a Presidential involve legal problems and issues that are not shared Executive Order demand that those cutbacks don't dis- with other modes; as, for example, compliance with proportionally adversely affect minority, disabled, and transit-equipment and operations guidelines, FTA fi- low-income populations. nancing initiatives, private-sector programs, and labor TCRP Legal Research Digest 7: The Impact of Civil or environmental standards relating to transit opera- Rights Litigation Under Title VI and Related Laws on tions. Also, much of the information that is needed by Transit Decision Making (1997) identified and ana- transit attorneys to address legal concerns is scattered lyzed the applicable Title VI and other civil rights re- and fragmented. Consequently, it would be helpful to quirements when providing transit services. This di- the transit lawyer to have well-resourced and well- gest also looks at the Americans with Disabilities Act documented reports on specific legal topics available (ADA) and environmental justice when dealing with to the transit legal community. reductions in transit service or increases in fares. The Legal Research Digests (LRDs) are developed "Environmental justice" is a term associated with to assist transit attorneys in dealing with the myriad the elimination of "unfair and inequitable conditions." of initiatives and problems associated with transit One modal administration of the U.S. Department of start-up and operations, as well as with day-to-day le- Transportation has described three fundamental envi- gal work. The LRDs address such issues as eminent ronmental justice principles: 1) to avoid, minimize, or domain, civil rights, constitutional rights, contract- mitigate disproportionately high and adverse human ing, environmental concerns, labor, procurement, risk health and environmental effects, including social and management, security, tort liability, and zoning. The economic effects, on minority and low-income popu- transit legal research, when conducted through the lations; 2) to ensure the full and fair participation by all TRB's legal studies process, either collects primary potentially affected communities in the transportation data that generally are not available elsewhere or per- decision-making process; and 3) to prevent the denial forms analysis of existing literature. of, reduction in, or significant delay in the receipt of benefits by minority and low-income populations. Applications This digest considers transit agencies' compliance with constitutional requirements, Title VI of the Civil State and local governments and other publicly sup- Rights Act of 1964, and the ADA. ported agencies are increasingly reviewing their oper- TRANSPORTATION RESEARCH BOARD OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES