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Fox v. Regional Transportation Authority

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

September 23, 2014

JOAN FOX, et al., Plaintiffs,

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For Joan Fox, Nick C Farina, individually, and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs: Lawrence Walner, LEAD ATTORNEY, Aaron Ross Walner, The Walner Law Firm, LLC, Chicago, IL; Dennis James Stolfo, Chicago, IL.

For Regional Authority Transportation, a unit of local government, a body politic, a political subdivision and a municipal corporation, the Commuter Rail Board, a division of the Regional Transportation Authority, doing business as Metra, Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corporation, a public corporation, doing business as Metra, Defendants: Daniel Keenan Ryan, LEAD ATTORNEY, Adam L. Saper, Hinshaw & Culbertson, Chicago, IL.

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JOAN B. GOTTSCHALL, United States District Judge.

Plaintiffs Joan Fox and Nick Farina bring this action on behalf of themselves and all similarly situated individuals against the Illinois Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), the Commuter Rail Board, and the Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corporation (the latter two defendants sometimes do business under the name " Metra" and, for simplicity, the court will refer to all defendants by that name). Plaintiffs allege that Metra violated a provision of the Federal Transit Act, 49 U.S.C. § 5307(c)(1)(D), that conditions a transportation operator's federal funding on the operator's agreement not to charge certain people (seniors, disabled passengers, and Medicare recipients) more than half of the " peak-hour" fare during " non-peak" hours. Plaintiffs bring three claims: (1) a federal claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging a violation of § 5307(c)(1)(D); (2) a state-law claim for restitution, and (3) a state-law claim for breach of contract. Metra moves for summary judgment, arguing, among other things, that plaintiffs' federal claim must be dismissed because § 5307(c)(1)(D) does not contain a private right of action. For the reasons explained below, Metra's motion is granted.

I. Background

A. 49 U.S.C. § 5307(c)(1)(D)

As an operator of public transportation in the Chicago metropolitan area, Metra receives federal funds pursuant to the Federal Transit Act, 49 U.S.C. § § 5301-5340. Section 5307(c)(1)(D) of the Act conditions a transportation operator's receipt of federal funds as follows:

(c) Grant recipient requirements.--A recipient may receive a grant in a fiscal year only if--
(1) the recipient . . . submits . . . a certification for that fiscal year that the recipient . . .
. . .
(D) will ensure that, during non-peak hours for transportation using or involving a facility or equipment of a project financed under this section, a fare that is not more than 50 percent of the peak hour fare will be charged for any--
(i) senior;
(ii) individual who, because of illness, injury, age, congenital malfunction, or other incapacity or temporary or permanent

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disability . . . , cannot use a public transportation service or a public transportation facility effectively without special facilities, planning, or design; and
(iii) individual presenting a Medicare card . . . .

49 U.S.C. § 5307(c)(1)(D) (the court will refer to this provision as the " half-fare provision" ).

Section 5307(f) provides for a triennial review whereby the Secretary of Transportation " shall review and evaluate . . . the extent to which [a recipient's] program activities are consistent with the activities proposed under subsection (c) [including the half-fare provision] . . . ." 49 U.S.C. § 5307(f)(2). If the Secretary's review reveals deficiencies in a transportation operator's compliance with the half-fare provision, § 5307 authorizes the Secretary to " take appropriate action . . . including making an appropriate adjustment in the amount of a grant or withdrawing the grant." 49 U.S.C. § 5307(f)(3). The Secretary is also empowered under the Act to " sue, to " enforce a right conferred on the Secretary by law or agreement," and to " issue regulations as necessary to carry out the purposes of [the Act]." 49 U.S.C. § § 5334(a)(2), (3), (11).

The Secretary of Transportation has promulgated regulations implementing § 5307(c)(1)(D). Section 609.23 of title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations, titled " Reduced Fare," states:

Applicants for financial assistance under section 5307 of the Federal transit laws . . . must, as a condition to receiving such assistance, give satisfactory assurances . . . that the rates charged elderly and handicapped persons during nonpeak hours for transportation . . . will not exceed ...

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