Documentary Raises Questions About Transit’s Civil Rights Impact

By Stephanie Beasley for Bloomberg BNA’s Beyond the Hill

Is a community obligated to provide public transportation options? And if it doesn’t, is that a civil rights issue? Those are some of the questions at the core of “Free to Ride” a new documentary  produced by the Ohio State University’s Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity.

The film premieres at the D.C. Independent Film Festival on Feb. 17. It follows the controversy around a proposal from the regional transit agency in Dayton, Ohio, to build new bus stops in the nearby suburb of Beavercreek.

The population of Dayton is nearly 40 percent black compared with about 3 percent in Beavercreek. So when the City of Beavercreek denied the transit agency’s request to add several bus stops near its mall and a medical center, a Dayton-based church organization filed a discrimination complaint with the Department of Transportation. The group said the decision violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars federally-funded agencies from discriminating against minorities.

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The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity was established in 2003 as a center for interdisciplinary research at The Ohio State University. The Kirwan Institute works to create a just and inclusive society where all people and communities have opportunity to succeed.