Feds Say Metro Has Violated Civil Rights Laws (Without Specifics)

We reported yesterday on things looking up for Metro, but today Hair Balls learned that our transit authority is violating the federal government's definition of civil rights.

According to a letter dated April 27, the Federal Transit Administration conducted a Title VI Compliance Review of Metro earlier this year, which, among other things, ensures "that the level and quality of transportation service is provided without regard to race, color, or national origin" and evaluates the "social and economic effects of programs and activities on minority populations and low-income populations."

Twenty-six different transit authorities have been reviewed since 2002, according to the FTA's web site, but this was the first in Houston. Metro has until the end of this month to respond to a preliminary report on the Title VI civil rights violations, according to the letter.

Hair Balls hasn't seen the report, and a representative from Metro hasn't been available for comment so it's impossible to know the nature of the violations. But several Houstonians, including Tom Bazan, have filed complaints with the federal civil rights office about the dwindling level of bus service to low-income areas in favor of pouring "delicate precious resources" into new light-rail lines.

"There's supposed to be a watch dogs for stuff like this," Bazan tells Hair Balls. "I think most of the watch dogs have had their nests feathered by Metro."

We spoke to Metro board chairman David Wolff at a press conference yesterday, and unfortunately, we didn't know about the letter at the time. But while he was addressing some criticisms of the light-rail, he brought up buses and said it makes him angry when people say the light-rail takes away from that service.

So Wolff doesn't think it's an issue as far as we know, but we weren't able to contact him today to see if he knows about the letter and report.

We've asked Metro for a response, and as soon as we hear from someone, we'll be sure to post an update.

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