April 14, 2023

Tamika Butler, Ph.D. Student, Urban and Regional Planning, UCLA


Lawsuits and Consent Decrees: Tools for Transit Equity?


1:40pm - 3:00pm


1605 Tilia, Room 1103, West Village


In 1994, The Labor/Community Strategy Center (LCSC) sued the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro), alleging that service cuts and fare hikes would unjustly harm minority bus riders in violation of Title VI. The case resulted in a settlement and consent decree that restricted fare increases and expanded bus service. This research examines the questions: (1) Are the arguments from the 1996 lawsuit still equity issues being fought for by advocates today; and (2) Are lawsuits and consent decrees viable tools in fighting for transit equity? I utilized a qualitative approach, drawing on legal research and semi-structured interviews to conclude that many of the legal concerns raised in the 1994 case are still present for Los Angeles transit advocates today. Additionally, I concluded that while lawsuits can be helpful tools in fighting for transit justice, this 1994 case resulted in a change in the law that curtails the ability of advocacy groups to bring similar lawsuits today. As a result, an agency’s own political will and accountability remain essential in fighting for transit justice.

Biographical Sketch

Tamika L. Butler (she/her or they/them) is a doctoral student in Urban Planning at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs. Her research employs a critical race, historical, legal, and policy-based approach to examine how transportation policy and infrastructure have been used to segregate, isolate, and prevent the mobility of Black and other historically oppressed groups of people.

Prior to pursuing her PhD, Tamika consulted, wrote, and spoke as a national expert on issues related to public policy, the built environment, equity, anti-racism, diversity and inclusion, organizational behavior, and change management. She transitioned to policy work after litigating for three years as an employment lawyer at Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center. Tamika has a diverse background in law, community organizing and nonprofit leadership.

Tamika received her J.D. from Stanford Law School and received her B.A. in Psychology and B.S. in Sociology in her hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. She lives in Los Angeles with her wife and kids.

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