Lawsuit: Transit funding favors whites

January 7, 2010 4:33:36 AM PST
A federal lawsuit filed Wednesday claims that Illinois' method for funding mass transit discriminates against minorities while providing luxury for white riders.Two people from Chicago filed the suit.

The attorneys who filed the lawsuit are seeking class action status on behalf of African-American and Hispanic CTA riders. They say their case is based on census data for the service areas and the disparities in funding are affecting the livelihoods for those who ride mass transit.

"Relying on public transportation has often required me to walk at least half a mile to the nearest bus line, just to get to the nearest railway. It seems like every other year there are talks about routes being cut or shortened because of the transit has been funded. This year is one of those years," said Manuel Munguia, one of two plaintiffs in the case.

The lawsuit claims that a state transit funding program created in 1983 and renewed in 2008 funnels a disproportionate amount of capital and operating funding to Metra. The lawsuit also claims Metra's riders are largely white and approximately half the CTA's riders are minorities.

"We want it stopped. We want transportation equity. We want it to be equal and fair," said Stewart Weltman, plaintiff's attorney.

Some politicans and community activists are supporting the lawsuit.

"It appears that minorities in Chicago are subsidizing all transit riders, yet still not getting their seat on the bus," said U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., Chicago & South Suburbs.

A spokesperson for Metra says there are inaccuracies in the lawsuit and Metra "categorically denies racial discrimination?Metra receives no discretionary funds from the regional transportation authority, while the CTA receives 95 percent of those funds."

A statement on the RTA's Web site said they would not comment on the litigation. But it said, "the RTA shares the goal to increase resources and provide quality service for our entire transit system while operating as efficiently as possible."