Bulger expresses concerns for suit against Metro over proposed service cuts
As the Metro board prepares to vote on a proposed service cut that could adversely change the experience on Metro for thousands of riders, a board committee member questions Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s analysis of equity in the proposal.
The Federal Transit Administration requires Metro to analyze equity of any proposed changes to the schedule that would last longer than 12 months.
Metro conducted a Title VI equity analysis of the schedule change and found minority and low-income riders would be harmed more than others. In addition, staff found that another proposed service change might be less harmful to minority populations and less disproportionate burden on low-income populations.
Despite these facts, Deputy General Manager Lynn Bowersox said the proposed change is equitable because low-income populations and minority populations who completed the survey showed more support for the third proposal.
Customer Service, Operations and Security committee member Tom Bulger said he was concerned about the results of the analysis and whether the service change could result in a lawsuit against Metro for equity concerns.
“If you see something wrong, you go on mute?” Bulger asked. “No, you speak up. I did.”
When the committee was set to vote on the proposed service change, members first voted on Metro’s Title VI equity analysis. Bulger was the only committee member to reject the study.
Bulger, who represents the District of Columbia, was also the only committee member to vote against approving the equity analysis. He said Thursday his concerns about the study still stand.
“You have an analysis that’s very hard to explain about how low-income workers would be impacted positively or negatively,” Bulger said.
Bulger said the full board is “on thin ice” in supporting the proposed service change. Metro’s equity analysis indicated the proposed schedule change would treat riders in minority groups and low-income riders differently.
Bulger said he therefore disagreed with Metro managers saying the proposal was equitable.
The proposed schedule change, the third of four, would close stations 30 minutes earlier at 11:30 p.m. on weekdays and close stations three hours later on Fridays and Saturdays. It would also keep stations closed until 7 a.m. Saturdays (no change) and 8 a.m. Sundays (one hour later). Stations would continue to open on weekdays at 5 a.m.
“Option three had an impact I’m not happy about for our low-income (riders),” Bulger said, later adding, “I’m not sure why (riders) favor that one.”
Committee member Malcolm Augustine, representing Prince George’s County, said he too is concerned about equity in the proposal, but he stopped short of opposing it.
“I acknowledge the fact that we need more time for preventative maintenance,” Augustine said.
Although he said in the committee meeting he was concerned about equity in the proposal, not approving any proposed cut to late night service would be worse for Metro because the preventative maintenance, for which General Manager Paul Wiedefeld proposed permanent cuts, wouldn’t happen.
The committee approved Augustine’s amendment that Metro would re-evaluate the late night service cut after two years.
Bowersox told the committee Dec. 1 that although low-income and minority populations would be disproportionately impacted and disparately burdened, the two groups favored the third proposal and that makes the proposal equitable.
Bulger said he disagrees.
“Why would riders prefer a proposal that disproportionately impacts them, but the other proposals don’t?” he asked. “This isn’t right, and therefore it’s disturbing,” he added.
Bulger said he “went through this,” regarding equity concerns, for the Bay Area Rapid Transit connector to the Oakland Airport in California and he didn’t want to see it occur with Metro.