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Crosby v. Regional Transportation Authority

June 11, 2010

WILLIAM K. CROSBY, HAROLD BELLAMY, JEANETTE EXOM, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
REGIONAL TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY, JIM REILLY, CHAIRMAN; CHICAGO TRANSIT AUTHORITY, CAROLE BROWN, CHAIRMAN; PACE SUBURBAN BUS, RICHARD KWASNESKI, CHAIRMAN, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles P. Kocoras, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This case comes before the court on the joint motion of Defendants Regional Transit Authority, Chicago Transit Authority, and PACE Suburban Bus ("Defendants") for partial judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c) on Counts IV, V, and VI of the complaint. Also before the court is Plaintiff Harold Bellamy's cross-motion for partial judgment on the pleadings as to the same counts. For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part. Bellamy's motion is denied in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Harold Bellamy ("Bellamy") is over sixty-five years old and a resident of the Chicago area. Bellamy suffers from disabilities that render him unable to use traditional fixed-route public transportation services offered by Defendant Chicago Transit Authority ("CTA"). Defendant PACE Suburban Bus ("PACE") provides paratransit services to disabled persons like Bellamy who are incapable of riding fixed-route buses and trains. To deliver paratransit service, PACE dispatches fleets of vehicles to pick up qualified riders from any location within three-quarters of a mile of any fixed-route rail or bus service provided by CTA. At the time the complaint was filed, PACE charged paratransit riders $2.25 for a single ride, $22.50 for a book of ten tickets, and $150.00 for a monthly pass.*fn1

Although PACE continues to charge senior citizen paratransit patrons to utilize its services, recent changes in Illinois law have allowed seniors who use fixed-route public transportation to ride for free. In 2008, Illinois enacted the Seniors Ride Free Act ("SRFA"). Pub. L. 95-708, 2007 Ill. Laws 708. The Act provides that "any fixed route public transportation services provided by" the CTA "shall be provided without charge to all senior citizens[.]" See 70 ILCS 3605/51. As a result of the SRFA, senior citizens who use fixed-route transit are not charged a fare, while senior citizens who are too disabled to utilize traditional methods of public transit must pay.

Bellamy filed suit against Defendants on November 2, 2007, and later amended his complaint to add claims challenging the legality of the senior citizen paratransit fares under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12143; the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794; and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Bellamy asserts that requiring senior citizen paratransit patrons to pay a fare while allowing senior fixed-route passengers to pay nothing violates his rights under the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. U.S. Const. Amend. XIV. Defendants answered the complaint on June 4, 2009, and moved for partial judgment on the pleadings with respect to the fare-related counts on February 3, 2010. Bellamy cross-moved for partial judgment on the pleadings on those same counts on April 5, 2010.

LEGAL STANDARD

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), a party can move for judgment on the pleadings after the filing of the complaint and answer. A party is entitled to judgment on the pleadings "when it appears beyond a doubt that the plaintiff cannot prove any facts to support a claim for relief and the moving party demonstrates that there are no material issues of fact to be resolved[.]" Moss v. Martin, 473 F.3d 694, 698 (7th Cir. 2007). In deciding a motion for judgment on the pleadings, a court construes the facts alleged in the complaint in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. R.J. Corman Derailment Servs., L.L.C. v. Int'l Union, Local Union 150, 335 F.3d 643, 647 (7th Cir. 2003). "The court, however, is not bound by the nonmoving party's legal characterizations of the facts." Nat'l Fidelity Life Ins. Co. v. Karaganis, 811 F.2d 357, 358 (7th Cir. 1987). In addition, the court may also take judicial notice of matters of public record when deciding a motion for judgment on the pleadings. United States v. Wood, 925 F.2d 1580, 1582 (7th Cir. 1991). Cross-motions for judgment on the pleadings are assessed independently -- denial of one does not necessarily constitute the grant of the other. See M. Snower & Co. v. United States, 140 F.2d 367, 369 (7th Cir. 1944).

DISCUSSION

As a preliminary matter, Defendants contend that we should not consider Bellamy's constitutional challenge to the Seniors Ride Free Act at this time because proper notice has not been provided to the Illinois Attorney General in conformity with Fed. R. Civ. P. 5.1(a) and 28 U.S.C. § 2403(b). Bellamy has not complied with these requirements, so we decline to consider the matter until he addresses the notice issue. See Max M. v. New Trier High Sch. Dist., 859 F.2d 1297, 1300 (7th Cir. 1988) (declining to consider constitutional issue absent provision of notice to state attorney general). We therefore deny without prejudice the portions of the parties' motions that concern Bellamy's claims under the Fourteenth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

We now turn to the parties' cross-motions for judgment on the pleadings as to Bellamy's claims under the Rehabilitation Act and the ADA.*fn2 Both Bellamy and Defendants contend that they are entitled to a ruling in their favor under the regulations that enforce provisions of the ADA that govern public transit entities' provision of paratransit services.

Bellamy argues that in light of the SRFA's elimination of fares for senior citizens on fixed-route transit, Defendants' charging senior citizen paratransit riders a fare violates the ADA and Rehabilitation Act. Defendants maintain that charging Bellamy a fare for use of their paratransit service is permissible because the relevant regulations permit Defendants to calculate paratransit fares without reference to discounts given to fixed-route riders.

Because both parties agree that the proper construction of the regulations at issue will determine the success of each party's motion, we will briefly restate the pertinent statutes and regulations before analyzing the merits of the parties' interpretations. Courts confronted with suits presenting claims under both the Rehabilitation Act and Title II, Part B of the ADA have applied the same ADA-based analysis to actions brought under both statutes. Boose v. Tri-County Metro. Trans. Dist. of Or., 587 F.3d 997, 1001 n.5 (9th Cir. 2009); see also Melton v. Dallas Area Rapid Transit, 391 F.3d 669, 675-76 (5th Cir. 2004). The statutory language of Title II, Part B of the ADA indicates that actions filed under the two statutes should be examined under one standard -- 42 U.S.C. § 12143(a) explicitly states that violation of the ADA also constitutes a violation of the Rehabilitation Act. Additional proof of the propriety of considering claims under both statutes using the same criteria can be found in each statute's enforcement regulations, which condition an entity's satisfaction of its Rehabilitation Act obligations upon compliance with the regulations issued pursuant to Title II, Part B of the ADA. See 49 C.F.R. 37.21 (compliance with Secretary of Transportation's regulations issued pursuant to authority under Title II, Part B of the ADA "is a condition of compliance with section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act"); 49 C.F.R. 27.19 (requiring adherence to regulations issued under ADA to satisfy responsibilities under Rehabilitation Act). Therefore, we will assess the merits of the parties' requests for judgment on the pleadings as to Bellamy's claims under the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act using standards contained within the regulations promulgated by the Secretary of Transportation pursuant to Title II, Part B of the ADA.

Title II, Part B of the ADA states that a public entity charged with operating a fixed route transit system must provide disabled persons with paratransit services that are "comparable to the level of designated public transportation services provided to individuals without disabilities[.]" 42 U.S.C. § 12143(a). The same statute gives the Secretary of Transportation the exclusive authority to issue regulations to effectuate the statute's guarantee of comparable paratransit service. 42 U.S.C. § 12143(b). To that end, the Secretary has issued regulations governing various ...


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