Federal Transit Administration dismisses complaint against TriMet related to its transfer policy change

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Complaint had been filed by community advocacy groups

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) today dismissed a Title VI complaint against TriMet that had been filed by the community advocacy group OPAL and the Center for Intercultural Organizing. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, color or national origin in programs or activities which receive federal financial assistance.

The Title VI complaint filed last December with the FTA claimed that TriMet failed to conduct a transit equity analysis before the agency standardized all transfer times with the installation of ticket printers on buses. In today’s FTA decision, the federal agency concluded “FTA does not find TriMet noncompliant with FTA’s Title [VI] requirements for the 2012 transfer policy change.”

The FTA also noted that TriMet “attempted to work with complainants to expand the Transfer policy, and TriMet has a history of proactively seeking Title VI technical assistance [from FTA].”

Background
In 2012, TriMet standardized all transfer times with the installation of ticket printers on buses. The printer gives riders a two-hour ticket, just like for the MAX and WES system. Under the old transfer system, bus operators manually adjusted the cutter bar to accommodate the progression of time during the day, resulting in inconsistent transfer times. The complaint claimed that the two-hour transfer was in effect a fare increase and that TriMet should have conducted a transit equity analysis on the impact to riders before launching the bus printer program. The FTA requires a transit equity analysis when there is a fare change, but had no requirement in place for a transfer change.

The FTA said the complaint was untimely and that a transit equity analysis was not required under federal guidelines in effect at the time of the complaint. FTA has updated its guidelines and going forward, will require an equity analysis when there is a change to transfer times.

After the federal complaint was filed in December, the TriMet board of directors tabled a scheduled vote on whether to extend transfer times from two hours to 2.5 hours for all bus and train trips. The board was awaiting guidance from the FTA on the issue.