National Academies Press: OpenBook

Reductions in Transit Service or Increases in Fares: Civil Rights, ADA, Regulatory, and Environmental Justice Implications (2011)


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Suggested Citation:"III. JUDICIAL INTERPRETATION OF SECTIONS 601 AND 602 OF TITLE VI." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2011. Reductions in Transit Service or Increases in Fares: Civil Rights, ADA, Regulatory, and Environmental Justice Implications. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/14498.
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14 fected by the service expansion and reductions, including the travel time and cost of the current route compared to the cost to the rider of the alternative; and (4) docu- mented evidence of steps taken to seek out and consider the viewpoints of minority and low-income populations in the course of developing the policy on major service changes.150 The letter pointed out that, even if BART performed an equity evaluation addressing FTA’s concerns, it was likely that BART still would miss FTA’s deadline of March 5, 2010, for obligating the funds available under ARRA. On February 12, 2010, the FTA notified BART that FTA had rejected BART’s “corrective action plan” for meeting BART’s Title VI obligations, because “there is no way the agency can come into full compliance with Title VI” by FTA’s deadline of September 30, 2010, un- der the ARRA.151 (The FTA’s letter explained that funds not disbursed by the deadline would “lapse” and not be available for use in the Bay area).152 According to the FTA, BART was “being realistic in admitting that the process of coming into full compliance will take consid- erably longer than the 8+ months that remain before the September 30 deadline.”153 The letter concluded: Given the fact that the initial Title VI complaint against BART was well founded, I am not in a position to award the ARRA funds to BART while the agency remains out of compliance. Moreover, it is clear that, if FTA were to pur- sue such a course, the likelihood of protracted litigation with the parties that made the initial complaint is ex- tremely high. According to press reports, BART still will receive $17 million of the $70 million in stimulus funds but for other uses.154 III. JUDICIAL INTERPRETATION OF SECTIONS 601 AND 602 OF TITLE VI A. Section 601 Proscribes Only Intentional Discrimination In Alexander v. Sandoval,155 a case involving Ala- bama’s English-only driver’s license examination, the issue was “whether private individuals may sue to en- force disparate impact regulations promulgated under 150 Id. 151 Letter from the FTA, to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit Dis- trict 1–2 (Feb. 12, 2010), available at http://www., last accessed on Sept. 9, 2010. 152 Id. at 2. 153 Id. 154 BART’s Loss of $70 Million is Muni’s Gain, S.F. EXAMINER, Feb. 16, 2010, available at http://www. 84535707.html , last accessed on Sept. 9, 2010. 155 532 U.S. 275, 121 S. Ct. 1511, 149 L. Ed. 2d 517 (2001). Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”156 The U.S. Su- preme Court held that Section 601 of Title VI, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d, proscribes only intentional discrimination.157 The Sandoval decision is consistent with prior deci- sions of the Court. In Alexander v. Choate,158 involving Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973,159 the Court held that Section 601 only prohibited intentional discrimination, not discrimination of the disparate- impact variety. In Choate, the state had reduced the number of annual days of inpatient hospital care cov- ered by the state Medicaid program.160 Although the reduction had more impact on the handicapped, the Court agreed with the State of Tennessee that Section 504 reaches only purposeful discrimination. The Choate Court cited its decision in Guardians As- sociation v. Civil Service Commission of New York City,161 in which the Court “confronted the question whether Title VI…reaches both intentional and dispa- rate-impact discrimination.”162 Although “[n]o opinion commanded a majority…the Court held that Title VI itself directly reached only instances of intentional dis- crimination”163 (emphasis added). Post-Sandoval, in 2003 in South Camden Citizens in Action v. New Jersey Department of Environmental Pro- 156 Sandoval, 532 U.S. at 278, 121 S. Ct. at 1515, 149 L. Ed. 2d at 523. 157 Id., 532 U.S. at 280 (citing Regents of Univ. of Cal. v. Bakke, 438 U.S. 265, 98 S. Ct. 2733, 57 L. Ed. 2d 750 (1978); Guardians Ass’n v. Civil Serv. Comm’n of N.Y. City, 463 U.S. 582, 103 S. Ct. 3221, 77 L. Ed. 2d 866 (1983); and Alexander v. Choate, 469 U.S. 287, 293, 105 S. Ct. 712, 83 L. Ed. 2d 661 (1985)). In addition, the Court has held that punitive damages may not be awarded in private suits brought under Title VI of the 1964 Act. Barnes v. Gorman, 536 U.S. 181, 188, 122 S. Ct. 2097, 2102, 153 L. Ed. 2d 230, 238 (2002) (stating that “Title VI funding recipients have not, merely by accepting funds, implicitly consented to liability for punitive damages”). 158 469 U.S. 287, 105 S. Ct. 712, 83 L. Ed. 2d 661 (1985). 159 Section 504 provides that “[n]o otherwise qualified handi- capped individual…shall, solely by reason of her or his handi- cap, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the bene- fits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Choate, 469 U.S. at 290, 105 S. Ct. at 714, 83 L. Ed. 2d at 665, (quoting 29 U.S.C. § 794). 160 The petitioners alleged that both the 14-day limitation and in fact any limitation on inpatient coverage would dispar- ately affect the handicapped and constitute a violation of § 504 (citing 29 U.S.C. § 794). 161 463 U.S. 582, 103 S. Ct. 3221, 77 L. Ed. 2d 866 (1983). 162 Choate, 469 U.S. at 292–93, 105 S. Ct. at 716, 83 L. Ed. 2d at 666–67. 163 Id. On the other hand, the Choate Court, observing that courts of appeals had held under some circumstances that § 504 reaches disparate impact legislation, stated that the Court “assume[d] without deciding that § 504 reaches at least some conduct that has an unjustifiable disparate impact upon the handicapped.” Id. at 299. The Court, however, rejected the respondents’ disparate impact claims, because “§ 504 does not impose an ‘affirmative-action obligation on all recipients of federal funds.’” Id. at 300 n.20 (citation omitted).

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TRB’s Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) Legal Research Digest 35: Reductions in Transit Service or Increases in Fares: Civil Rights, ADA, Regulatory, and Environmental Justice Implications explores the legal implications of reductions in transit service or increases in fares in the context of environmental justice. Based on federal environmental justice principles, the report analyzes constitutional and statutory provisions and regulations in regard to transit agencies’ compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).


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