Suit to allege racial discrimination in funding of CTA vs. Metra

UPDATE: Here’s the report on this suit from Chicago Breaking News.

A lawsuit alleging racial discrimination in the “funding and provision of public transportation” was slated to be filed later today, say attorneys for the plaintiffs.

The following is straight from the media alert. More to come later from CTA Tattler and Chicago Breaking News.

African American and Latino CTA riders will file a class action lawsuit today alleging that an Illinois transit funding scheme enacted in 1983, and renewed in 2008, funnels a disproportionate share of capital and operating funding to Metra, resulting in wide service disparities between whites and minority riders. Over the last 26 years, funding inequities have caused the CTA to increase fares and cut services, resulting in reduced access to much needed transit services, less employment opportunities, and lower property values in predominantly minority neighborhoods. Metra riders are 70% white, while CTA riders are 67% African American and Hispanic.


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  • Since the formula is statutory, they would have to show intentional discrimination by the legislature.

    Two obvious, but not necessarily jurisprudential responses:
    1. Maybe this reinforces my argument that Chicago should just go it alone in supporting the CTA. In the school area, it is well accepted that you can't force integration over political boundaries.
    2. It also seems that since a large amount of the sales tax revenue that supports the CTA under the formula comes from the city (although, as I recently pointed out, the "new money" or the last 1/4 point of the sale tax money comes from 43% collected throughout the region), you would think that the CTA would be vocally supporting those who are advocating bringing a sales tax generator into the city, instead of letting certain interests block it.

    Finally, I was going to mention that the link to Chicago Breaking News wasn't going anywhere in particular, until I reread your post and saw that you were quoting a "media alert," which the both of you just received. This gets to the side question about what kind of P.R. apparatus the plaintiff's bar is using, in that they send out media alerts including allegations, and the media accepts them at face value, regardless of the facts nor whether a legal cause of action has been stated. This appears no different than the discussion in connection with the legal "beef" by the ATU over the train operators being fired. One can allege anything, but defendants can't comment because they have not been served, and the motions to dismiss are rarely reported.

  • In reply to jack:

    At least the Chicago Breaking News piece, when it went up, did go into the countervailing argument in some detail. That surprised me.

  • In reply to jack:

    Jack, I think your criticism of the media and me of accepting allegations at face value is unfounded.

    I very clearly labeled them as allegations, and didn't call them true. I was careful to say check back later for more from Chicago Breaking News, and then posted the link where there was a fair and balanced story. Tomorrow I plan to post my own thoughts and balance it out, just as I said I would.

    I consider myself a fair and impartial journalist and do resent the "allegations" that I am not.

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    The comment wasn't personal. I was only mentioning the usual trend in the news. I was more interested in finding out who was the PR arm that apparently sends out these media alerts to the media. Unlike what Fericola is apparently doing, I don't believe that anyone else is going down to the federal courthouse searching for these filings (or whatever would be the electronic equivalent of doing so today). In that a media alert was sent, that would tend to negate it.*

    Like I said in post #2, I was pleasantly surprised that Chicago Breaking News went beyond the usual "the plaintiff's lawyer alleged."

    A personal complaint I had with the media on this type of issue was on Zorn's blog, where he kept saying "Sign Jesse sign," I said that the Illinois Supreme Court wouldn't make him, and sure enough, it didn't, because Zorn doesn't understand the law. Bill Kurtis and Joel Daly had the requisite education to comment on press releases about legal complaints, but I doubt very many people working for the Tribune do.
    *One could also put in this category Robert Clifford having a backdrop in his office for press conferences, even though he isn't the President of the United States. Of course, you have Drew Peterson's lawyers supposedly asking today that a hearing be secret, even though they went to a PR firm first. However, these musings are a bit off point, since this isn't the Chicago Bar-Tender. But mentioning the "media alert" sure rang a bell in my mind.

  • In reply to jack:

    Here I'm sounding like the old guy again, but back in the mid-1960s when I broke in as a reporter with the Chicago Daily News, there was a hard and fast rule about law suit stories that just about everyone in the business followed: Nothing would appear in the paper until the law suit was actually filed in the clerks office. It avoided all sorts of legal complications and seemed fairer to everyone involved. Although, almost always the defendant's comment even after the suit was filed was "no comment; we haven't studied the suit yet." Jack's point still seems valid: Anyone can say anything about anyone and say they'll be filing a lawsuit, but until they do, there's little or no protection for anyone in the media who simply repeats the allegations before the filing. This is learned through hard experience in cases when the lawsuit never materializes.

    Then again, this is just "old media" talking, and what do they have to offer?

  • In reply to DennisByrne1:

    Dennis, I get what you are saying, and actually I am not far behind you as "old school" since I started my career in journalism in 1977 at the Daily News/Sun-Times suburban edition called Suburban Week.

    My point is that I included all the usual caveats, and I'm now trying to practice "new school" journalism by getting out in front of the story.

  • In reply to jack:

    "Maybe this reinforces my argument that Chicago should just go it alone in supporting the CTA."

    Maybe that argument is not reinforced by the fact that a fair chunk of the L runs in the suburbs: Purple Line (formerly EVANSTON Express), Yellow Line (formerly SKOKIE Swift), the Rosemont stop on the Blue Line, the west end of the Green Line in Oak Park, the west end of the Blue Line in Oak Park and Forest Park, and the west end of the Pink Line in Cicero. Also, many CTA bus routes run at least partially in the suburbs, rather than ending precipitously at the city limits as if encountering an iron curtain.

    "In the school area, it is well accepted that you can't force integration over political boundaries."

    Yes, there's no integration now in transit. All those Pace buses feeding passengers into L stations are a figment of my imagination. Nobody rides Metra downtown from in-city stations, nor does anyone board Metra in the city to reach jobs in the suburbs. And nobody rides CTA after arriving downtown on Metra, simply ignore the entire 120-series of bus routes.

    Could service be more integrated? Of course. Is there some inefficient duplication between the service boards? Maybe. But we do have a REGIONAL system, as implied by the above examples and the name RTA itself, because we are in a metropolitan area. There is no neat us-vs-them split between the city and the suburbs, one isn't sponging off the other despite a lot of yahoos on the Net (urbanites and suburbanites) who loudly insist so. The city needs the suburbs, and the suburbs need the city.

  • Especially in the reverse commuter market. Of course, I know of someone who argued that the Shuttle Bug reverse feeders should be canceled because they violated his supposed rights as a charter operator, even though they were not a charter service but established with CMAQ grants. Everyone has his or her own interest, regardless of what the more general good requires.

  • It's possible that Metra receives more than its fair share of funding. You could argue either way, but where do they get off saying it is racist? Where do they get the numbers for the ridership ethnicity?

  • There are many areas on the South Sides (west and east) that are *not* terribly accessible by any form of public transit.

  • Well, the truth is that Metra and Pace are funded disporportionately well, per rider, than the CTA is. That should be corrected so that they are equal, and with the increased affluence of the city, presumably will be fairly soon at any rate. However, if a lawsuit like this fixes it even sooner, then bless them for helping avoid that future fight.

    And, yeah, trust me, there are huge swaths of the South Side that don't have decent transit access. I've lived in them. If the CTA had the money that Metra is taking that it shouldn't be rightfully getting, that service could be added. And, with increased transit access, those areas would have one more weapon to help halt their long economic declines. By denying those (mostly minority, but massive geographically and low density by city standards, so hard to serve) areas that lifeline, it is discrimination. So, I agree with the accusations.

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