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Racial Discrimination Suit Filed Against CTA, Metra

By Lindsey Miller in News on Jan 6, 2010 10:40PM

Photo by Nick Suydam
Public transit funding that over-funds Metra and under-funds the CTA is racial discrimination, says a class-action law suit filed today with the U.S. District Court in Chicago. The suit, filed by plaintiffs Dorothy McGhee (who is African-American) and Manuel Munguia (who is Hispanic), is a class-action on behalf of all black and Hispanic CTA riders, reports the Tribune. The suit places the blame for the funding disparities as motivated by racial discrimination on the State of Illinois, the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Regional Transportation Authority and Metra.

The lawsuit says that 82 percent of Chicago-area transit riders use the CTA, but it only receives 59 percent of operating subsidies from the RTA. On the other hand, Metra gets only 12 percent of the area's riders, but receives 27 percent of the funding. The majority of Metra-riders, about 70 percent, are white, says the suit. This is compared to 60 percent of CTA riders are black or Hispanic.

"As a result of the funding scheme, CTA has continually tottered on financial ruin ... while Metra has thrived, and today provides its predominantly white riders mass transit luxury at a below market price," the suit said.

The funding disparities create reduced employment opportunities in African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods, while also lowering property values, says the suit. Most minorities remain in areas inaccessible to CTA trains and are more reliant on buses because the reduced funding has forced the CTA to put off large projects like its planned Red Line extension.

Public funding is allocated through the RTA by a system put in place in 1983 and last amended in 2008. CTA officials acknowledge the funding disparities, but blame the fact that the transit funding structure hasn't been changed to reflect changes in population and demographics in the six counties served by the RTA. For example, CTA officials say that transit funds in the form of increased tax revenues collected in suburban Chicago go mostly to the Metra.