Home Asides Lawsuits abound to stop service cuts

Lawsuits abound to stop service cuts

by Benjamin Kabak

As a hot and steamy Monday dawned in New York City, millions of commuters found the shape of the transit system radically different. With the MTA’s service cuts in place, many bus routes were no longer in existence, and subway service patterns changed as well. Although politicians could have looked to bridge tolls or congestion pricing as a way to provide money to the MTA to halt the cuts, no one in Albany did so, and now private citizens are turning toward the legal system to achieve that goal.

As The Daily News reports, various organizations have filed or plan to file three lawsuits aimed at overturning the service cuts. The first suit landed in Brooklyn Supreme Court on Friday and was filed on behalf of disabled riders. Per Pete Donohue, the suit asks the MTA to “explain why cuts to 11 southern Brooklyn routes don’t violate state law requiring equal treatment for the handicapped.” Although a judge did not enjoin the cuts, he did set a hearing date for late July in the case. Another disabilities group plans to file a similar federal suit later this week, and the TWU also plans to file a suit to block bus driver and mechanics layoffs this week.

Although I can’t comment on the merits of these suits yet, the first two at least strike me as Hail Mary attempts. The MTA has been explicit in its attempts at adhering to the Americans with Disabilities Act, and although services for disabled riders have been scaled back, they’ve been so within the color of the law. The cuts may not be good customer service, but their legality does not appear to be in doubt.

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SEAN June 28, 2010 - 12:50 pm

If Access A Ride takes it’s passengers to a subway station that is accessable instead of there final destination, what happens if a station elevator is not working or there destination does not have an accessable station nearby?

That is a fair question that the courts are going to need to grapple with.

Ben, you said this new practice is within the scope of the ADA, but it semes to me it’s in part to be an outlawed practice of “seporate but equil.” I’ll try to give an example. You Ben can get from your place of residence to work without assistance, but a person using a wheelchair maybe detoured if an accessable station is not avaleable at both ends of the same trip. Can you adress this point & please correct me if I’m wrong.

Aaron June 28, 2010 - 8:06 pm

Transit is covered by its own provisions of the ADA, provisions that I understand were requested by reps from cities with legacy systems such as NYC, Philly, Chicago, Boston, etc. As long as MTA adheres to its current policies, I’m not seeing a viable ADA claim here. You can quibble about the implementation of it, and some cities have attempted to openly flaunt even the reduced mandate (see: Boston, Chicago), but on the whole I think most people with flesh in the game agree that the provisions, when carried out in good faith, are the best that we can do right now.

The US Supreme Court perversely said that, so as to not stigmatize disabled people, they wouldn’t recognize a higher standard of review for disability – therefore, the doctrine of “separate but equal,” plainly outlawed for race and most gender distinctions, is perfectly lawful in many disability contexts.

If AAR takes a customer to an inaccessible subway station, they’re not following their ADA mandate. That one’s not a hard one. If it’s outright inaccessible, they need to take the person to another one. If it’s inaccessible due to an elevator outage, the letter of the law says to tae them to another station, but given the distant spacing of accessible stations in the outer boroughs, I suspect that the practical answer at times may be to take them to their destination, particularly if their destination is in the same borough. As to cutting bus service from neighborhoods where there is still subway service – but that subway service is inaccessible – I don’t have case law in front of me but I suspect that the legal answer is going to be “tough luck.”

I personally disagree with that, on a ethical and advocacy perspective, but I’m not expecting that argument to get much traction. Those residents because qualified for AAR by those cuts, probably, and it’s likely that the 2nd Cir. will be satisfied with AAR filling the gap. But as I’ve pointed out before, nobody who works or actually needs to keep to a schedule is going to want to use AAR service – even assuming that AAR were to stay within its mandated schedules, it would still be nigh impossible to keep a professional calendar based on AAR scheduling.

ferryboi June 28, 2010 - 5:22 pm

Good luck with the lawsuits. As of right now (5:20pm) I’m looking at 20+ riders waiting for the M42 at Second Ave. No bus has come by in at least 15 mins, and it’s rush hour. The M104 doesn’t run here anymore, and the MTA is still using regular-sized buses to handle 2x the crowd. This in the heart of midtown Manhattan. I can only imagine what outlying areas of the other 4 boros are going through. Bloomy can kiss a 4th term goodbye, as can just about any other idiot politician who let these cuts go through.

E. Aron June 28, 2010 - 5:45 pm

Bloomberg caused the financial crisis which led to lower real estate tax payments and less revenue for the MTA? Breaking news here on a SAS comment!

Jerrold June 28, 2010 - 8:32 pm

The trouble is, he was not even supposed to have a THIRD term, after the people voted twice to limit a mayor to two terms.

rhywun June 28, 2010 - 9:14 pm

And then they went and voted him right back into office, handily. Sigh.

rhywun June 28, 2010 - 9:21 pm

I am not a lawyer – far from it – but common sense tells me that that the absence of a bus line affects everyone, not just the disabled. Nor is there some sort of “right” for a bus line to be present on any specific road, which is the only way their argument would make sense to me.

As for the TWU – same thing. There’s no “right” to a particular job, neither when that job is needed nor after it is not. Unless they somehow got that written into their contracts… it wouldn’t surprise me.

John June 28, 2010 - 10:52 pm

I don’t see what they are trying to accomplish by suing the MTA. If they got the money (which I don’t know where it would go), the MTA would have that much less money for operating costs which may lead to further reductions. If not by route discontinuations, then the frequency of the buses would be reduced to cover for the costs of the lawsuit.


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