WASHINGTON — Some area transit officials claim that Metro’s planned service hours cuts discriminate against minority and low-income riders under Metro’s internal standards, an issue that could add a lawsuit to the list of things that could prevent the changes from happening next year.
“There’s no question about it,” said Prince George’s County Metro Board member Malcolm Augustine.
D.C. Metro Board member Tom Bulger has been part of civil rights lawsuits from the other side in the past. He said the issue raised questions.
“I want to know how bulletproof this is going to be when we get sued,” he said to Metro staff, adding, “I think we’re really on thin ice.”
The head of Metro’s civil rights office, a Metro lawyer, and Metro Assistant General Manager Lynn Bowersox said the disparate impact is outweighed by riders’ votes in an online and paper survey, which showed that out of the four options presented, riders most preferred the option that would close the system at 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday, at 11:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and only run trains from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday.
Augustine and Arlington County Board member Christian Dorsey questioned whether Metro really found out what those most in need of the system wanted, since outreach for the federally-mandated civil rights analysis only focused on stations with heavy use by minority and low-income riders.
Bowersox said she was surprised that people preferred an option that affected more trips each year over the original Metro proposal to close at midnight six days a week and at 10 p.m. Sundays.
The full board is expected to take up amendments to the plan before a possible final vote Dec. 15. The proposal approved by the committee would implement the closures from July 2017 through the end of June 2019. The District’s Metro Board members have threatened to veto the proposal if it lasts longer than one year.
Augustine provided the key maneuvering needed to advance the cuts to the full board in two weeks, despite his concerns about the civil rights impact and other parts of the plan.