Metro Still Has To Prove To The Feds It's Not Screwing Low-Income Riders
The Federal Transit Administration released its final report on Metro's compliance -- and non-compliance -- with federal civil rights laws, and according to the report, Metro is still deficient in two areas, including not being able to prove that its November 2008 fare increase or recent service eliminations did not hurt minority or low-income riders.
From the report:
METRO remains deficient in this area because it has planned or implemented substantial new services during 2008, including all of the Light Rail projects and the implementation of premium services, including Signature bus service and Airport Direct bus service. METRO has not documented that it conducted an Equity Evaluation of these service improvements to determine that the investments were made equitable in minority and non-minority communities.
The report continues:
In fact, the data shows that minorities, low-income and LEP riders were more likely to pay with cash and the elimination of the free transfers for cash-paying passengers disproportionately impacted these protected groups.
Following the FTA's original investigation, which took place at the beginning of this year, Metro was deficient in eight out of the 12 categories, and to the agency's credit, all but the two were fixed. For instance, a couple weeks ago, we reported on the FTA's preliminary findings, including that "the general consensus among the [Metro] staff was that there was little to no awareness of Metro's Title VI Program."
From the final report:
METRO did not submit to FTA in either its 2008 Title VI Report to the FTA, or in the January 2009 Supplement, a listing of Title VI complaints recieved through its Public Comment System.
It's a shame that during the time that Metro was trying to finalize $1.46 billion worth of plans for the light rail and no doubt praying for federal money, it wasn't sending the feds any complaints from the public. But, the good news is, the problems with getting a complaint to the right people have been fixed.
So have six other deficiencies, and you can read all about it in the final report. The other area that Metro is still deficient deals with providing better access to riders who speak limited English. According to the report, Metro has until September 30 to fix the remaining problems.
A spokeperson from Metro has not responded to our questions, which we sent via e-mail, but we will update as soon as possible.
Update: Metro spokeswoman Raequel Roberts tells us that Metro plans to comply by the September deadline, and she has been working today to find answers to additional questions.
Update 2: In an e-mail to Hair Balls, Roberts reminds us that the cover letter to the Title VI report said the FTA is "pleased with the progress Metro has made in implementing the requirements of Title VI."
She said the first deficiency remains because Metro didn't thoroughly explain to the FTA that the new fare structure no longer gives the biggest discounts to riders who pay the most money up front, making it more fair for low-income and minority riders. For example, she said, a rider gets a 10 percent discount whether he loads his card with $2 or $100.
In regards to the other deficiency, Roberts said "we are still working with the FTA to provide sufficient documentation to address thier requirements."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.