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Detroit Settles Bus Case -- Agreement Tied To Elections?

by Dave Reynolds (subscribe)

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express

DETROIT--Nearly a year and a half after a group of transit riders with disabilities sued the City of Detroit, a settlement has been arranged to give those riders better access and more reliable service.

According to the Associated Press, the U.S. Department of Justice announced the settlement with the Detroit Department of Transportation on Thursday.

Under the agreement, which awaits approval by a federal judge, the city would continue to retire buses that do not have wheelchair lifts; repair and maintain lifts on current buses; and buy new buses that have lifts or "low floor" buses that lower to the ground or curb to allow wheelchairs to board. Drivers and mechanics would also be trained in how to use the lifts and assist wheelchair users and other passengers with disabilities.

"Detroit residents who use wheelchairs should not have to wait as buses pass them by because the bus lifts are inoperable," said U.S. Attorney Stephen J. Murphy.

Five riders sued the city in the summer of 2004, accusing it of violating their rights under the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The riders claimed the transit system fleet had 120 buses with malfunctioning lifts, causing the passengers to repeatedly wait 30 minutes or longer for a bus with a working lift. The Justice Department joined the suit in March of this year.

The city was losing $1 million in fines each month since January of this year for not complying with federal law.

Richard Bernstein, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, said the timing of the settlement had a lot to do with the upcoming election between Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and former deputy mayor Freman Hendrix.

"It was a focus on politics, rather than people, that prompted the mayor to finally resolve this lawsuit," Bernstein told the Detroit Free Press.

Feds to monitor city's busing (Detroit News)

News Release, U.S. Dept. of Justice

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