City Council will consider a six-month moratorium on new permits for bus stops next month so the council has time to hire a consultant to help create a new bus stop application process that does not violate civil rights.
Council tabled the moratorium resolution at Monday’s council meeting.
At the center of the bus stop issue in the city is the Federal Highway Administration’s recent finding that the city violated the 1964 Civil Rights Act by refusing to allow the RTA to extend a bus route to the Mall at Fairfield Commons. The act requires any entity that receives federal funds may not discriminate by race, creed or ethnicity. The proposed moratorium would not include the Greater Dayton Regional Transportation Authority’s request the council denied in 2011, according to Stephen McHugh, city attorney.
The government gave the city 90 days to comply and “rehear the application for the three proposed bus stops submitted by the RTA in 2010/2011” under its 2000 bus stop ordinance, according to the June 26 letter of finding.
“This (moratorium) will give us time to get with our consultant to work through the process,” Mayor Vicki Giambrone said in making the motion, which passed unanimously.
Adam Levin, a Washington, D.C., lawyer who has represented the city in the issue, told the council because the city receives federal money, it is obligated to follow federal law. If the city does not comply by the deadline, it stands to lose millions of dollars in federal highway funding.
Levin said the city could appeal the highway administration’s finding. An appeal of the decision could cost, “well into six figures,” Levin said.
“The finding went to the secretary (of the Department of Transportation). The federal government is watching this closely,” he told council.
Such an appeal could take from nine months to 16 months. While the city is appealing the finding, it still may have to comply with the finding.
“You will need to consider the chances of success, the time involved, the cost, the resources it will take, and the distraction and publicity that an appeal would involve,” Levin said.
Giambrone said Levin was brought to the council meeting “in the spirit of full transparency” about the general facts of the dispute and the information available to council members.
In 2010, city staff had approved the RTA proposal to extend a route to the Pentagon Boulevard area with three bus stops as the proposal conformed to the city’s 2000 bus stop ordinance. The RTA said it wanted to expand the route to give public transit customers — many of whom are minorities or disabled — access to the mall, nearby medical facilities and employment opportunities.
Council members, after polling constituents, said a vast majority of the residents they heard from were opposed to expanding the bus route. The council then added 19 more criteria for the RTA to meet — including video surveillance cameras and police call boxes at all stops, heated and air-conditioned shelters, billing RTA for police services, and requiring a $150,000 deposit from RTA in case new traffic signals were needed because of the stops — to gain approval.
Eleven of those criteria went beyond the scope of the ordinance, according to the highway administration, and the city presented no evidence that they were needed.