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Transportation discrimination

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A few people sent me this story, with excellent news about the Federal Highway Administration’s obviously correct finding that the Beavercreek city council is indeed acting in a discriminatory fashion regarding their farcical roadblocks to new GDRTA stops. As bad as the story sounds, additional facts make Beavercreek look much, much worse.

The Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority is primarily funded by Montgomery county taxes. Montgomery county covers the city of Dayton and most of its inner suburbs to the North and South. A number of fairly affluent eastern suburbs are in Greene county, which begins at or very near the Eastern Urban boundary of Dayton. Greene county makes no contribution to the funding of the GDRTA. Currently, the GDRTA serves two destinations in Greene County. A handful of commuter buses serve the Wright Patterson Air Force Base, which lies just across the county line in Greene County and is the region’s largest employer. Route 1, a frequent, heavily used all day E-W trunk route, continues across the County line into Greene County, terminating at Wright State University, a mostly commuter campus that serves as the region’s primary public university. These services may benefit a few Greene County riders, but they exist primarily for the benefit of Mongomery County riders, allowing them access to a important regional destinations for employment and education.

RTA’s proposal is to divert a portion of #1 buses to a few stops in the commercial area directly South of WSU, near the Mall at Fairfield Commons. This area contains not just shopping but some newish office parks and other employment resources. Unlike existing service, this would benefit Beavercreek residents in a number of ways–increasing carless access to the University from a growing part of town and giving WSU students living on campus without a car better access to nearby shopping, entertainment and employment. RTA is asking for nary a dime from Beavercreek or Greene County; merely permission to install some bus stops on city property. The additional cost in service hours (which would be, admittedly, fairly trivial) would be borne entirely by the GDRTA from its current income sources.

As it stands now, many people do ride the RTA to the Mall at Fairfield Commons, walking the last mile or so to their destination. Although there’s no data on this, it seems reasonable to speculate that these intrepid commuters are likely to include a substantial number of mall employees. Given what service industry jobs pay around here, there’s a good chance some of these people risk this commute because they are among the ~20% of Dayton residents without a car, the vast majority of which are carless for economic reasons. I say “risk” because in order to walk from the WSU bus stop to the Mall, you must cross a busy and dangerous freeway overpass that contains no crosswalks. If you’re a poor Montgomery County resident and you want a job at the Mall at Fairfield Commons, the city of Beavercreek evidently believes you should be willing to risk your life for it. (from what I can tell from googlemaps, any alternate walking route would be over 3 miles, and who knows if they actually have sidewalks.)

Since “we will do anything we can to prevent minorities from setting foot in our fair city” is the kind of brutal honesty the citizens and politicians of Beavercreek are unwilling to engage in, they cast about for various other reasons to deny permission for the bus stops, with predictably hilarious results.  The argument that “rider safety” requires open air shelters to have heating, air-conditioning, and closed circuit cameras was particularly absurd* in the abstract, but has been rendered even more farcical by recent events. Greene County has undergone significant and rapid population growth in recent years, putting a strain on their “dial-a-ride” local transit option. A few years ago, they attempted to address the overwhelmed demand of their inadequate transportation options with a some fixed route services, mostly involving the (older, poorer, further from Dayton) county seat of Xenia. In February of 2013, they expanded their local service considerably. One of the new routes is the “Orange Line,” also known as the Beavercreek Circulator. I have not yet had the pleasure of experiencing this new transportation offering, so I can’t say for certain whether the bus stops it serves have heated and air conditioned shelters with closed-circuit security cameras, in accordance with the Beavercreek city council’s definition of a safe bus stop.

I don’t know whether Beavercreek will stop their obstructionism, mount a futile appeal, or lose millions in federal highway money for noncompliance. I hope they choose the former path, but any of them would be emotionally satisfying. I look forward to eventually going to Spinoza’s, which from what I’ve been told is probably the best beer bar in the Dayton area I haven’t yet patronized, with excellent food as well, but I won’t set foot in a Beavercreek business until the city they pay taxes to ceases this obstructionism in the service blatant racial discrimination.

*As the RTA director dryly observed in response to the city council’s demands: There’s one air-conditioned open-air bus shelter in the world. It’s in Dubai.

….And to head off any inevitable speculation about increased crime from all those….”urban thugs” gaining increased access: two of the biggest and fastest growing malls in Greene County are the aforementioned Mall at Fairfield Commons and “The Greene“, a horrific simulacrum of an old-fashioned downtown. The Greene, it turns out, has fairly frequent RTA service: because it sits on the county line, the Beavercreek city council is powerless to prevent the service. So, how does crime compare at the two locations? In a rare act of journalism, the DDN found out:

But a Dayton Daily News analysis of incident statistics provided by Beavercreek police found there were fewer incident calls to The Greene — which has two RTA stops across the street in Kettering — than Fairfield Commons….. Using the same time frame — May 2, 2009 to March 13, 2011 — chosen due to a change in Beavercreek’s records systems, Fairfield Commons had 346 crime calls while The Greene had 254.

 

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