Illegal and Discriminatory Orange Line Closure
Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR) has requested federal intervention and oversight in connection with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) improper shutdown of the Orange Line.
As a federally-funded entity, the MBTA is prohibited from conduct that has an unjustified impact based on race, color, or national origin. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has directed federal funding recipients such as MBTA to conduct a service equity analysis whenever a major service change is proposed to determine whether the change will have a disproportionate impact on communities of color and/or low-income communities. Importantly, the analysis must take place prior to implementation. This timing requirement is critical because it means that the transportation provider then has an opportunity to proactively prevent, or at least mitigate, harm to communities of color if a disproportionate impact is anticipated.
It does not appear that the MBTA has followed federal rules and policies in closing down the Orange Line.
The MBTA’s failure to meaningfully conduct an equity analysis has harmed and burdened communities of color and low-income communities. For example, while the MBTA is relying heavily on communicating alternative routes to Orange Line riders, inadequate attention has been paid to the needs of those who are Limited English Proficient. While some signage is available in some other languages, this is inconsistent at best. Similarly, while the MBTA has relied heavily on personnel on-the-ground to direct riders to alternative modes of transportation, there is a distinct lack of such personnel who speak languages other than English.
The MBTA’s closure of the Orange Line without first undertaking an equity analysis is not the first instance of inequitable and discriminatory conduct by MBTA. Recent examples include:
- The cancellation of late night bus service in 2016, which unjustifiably burdened people of color and low-income riders.
- The racial profiling of riders of color, including a client of LCR’s who was improperly removed from a Red Line train at South Station.
- The cancellation of commuter trains on the Fairmount Commuter Rail Line, which resulted in a disproportionately negative impact on people of color and low-income riders.
- The disproportionate issuance of fare evasion citations to people of color.
- The MBTA’s May 31, 2020 shut-down of several stations in downtown Boston immediately following a Black Lives Matter protest.
In light of this pattern and practice, LCR demands that the MBTA:
- Immediately undertake an equity analysis for the Orange Line closure, as required by federal and state law, and adopt mitigation steps for the remainder of the anticipated closure; and
- Undertake an equity analysis, conducted by an independent consultant, of all of MBTA’s policies and practices, to determine whether they have a disparate impact or otherwise disproportionately burden communities of color.
LCR stands ready to hold the MBTA accountable on behalf of the low-income families and communities of color that we represent.
Click here for the open letter to the MBTA.
Click here for the federal investigation request.MBTA-Open-Letter-Orange-Line-FINAL