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Cap Metro service changes disproportionately affect poor people

Tuesday, February 22, 2022 by Seth Smalley

During last week’s board meeting, Capital Metro officials revealed poor populations were more affected by service changes in certain commuter lines. However, due to existing alternate routes, the transit agency plans to keep the changes in place.

The analysis examined specific bus route reductions and adjustments implemented by the transit agency over the last few years as a result of substantially lower ridership.

While no disparate impact was found in minority populations, a disproportionate burden to low-income populations was found for the service changes in some commuter lines. Capital Metro cited a 90 percent ridership reduction compared to years past in some routes. However, Capital Metro expects to continue with the changes as planned, citing other routes which make the same trips possible.

Jacqueline Evans, the agency’s director of diversity, told the Capital Metro Board of Directors that the transit authority was “committed to making service decisions through an equity lens.”

“These changes can proceed because the impacts were minimized through the Red Line (MetroRail) service, alternative express bus service, and maintaining trips that allow commuters to arrive and depart at the start and end of a traditional workday,” said Lawrence Deeter, principal planner of short-range planning at Capital Metro.

The analysis was conducted as part of Title VI requirements from the Federal Transit Administration placed on any transit organization receiving public funding. Title VI was developed in 1964 as part of the Civil Rights Act, to “protect people from discrimination based on race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.”

“The Federal Transit Administration works to ensure nondiscriminatory transportation in support of our mission to enhance the social and economic quality of life for all Americans,” the FTA website reads.

Though the recommendations of the analysis have already been implemented by Capital Metro, a presentation to the board is part of the procedure required by Title VI for record-keeping, Deeter explained.

“That is what this process really is. It’s for us to properly document that the analysis was conducted and that the board acknowledges that analysis,” Deeter said. “Capital Metro will return to its regular service change process beginning with the summer 2022 service change. And this process does include listening to and addressing comments from everyone in the community.”

Board members did not discuss the analysis or ask questions during the meeting.

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