U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano is asking federal investigators to look into whether the state's commuter rail operator violated civil rights laws.
The Boston Globe reports the Massachusetts Democrat wants the Department of Justice and Federal Transit Administration to review a decision by Keolis Commuter Services to take trains from a line that serves lower-income communities to use on suburban lines. The Globe reported Sunday that Keolis cancelled 17 trains on the Fairmount Line, which runs through Mattapan, Roxbury and Dorchester.
In a letter, Capuano said diverting trains from lower-income and minority neighborhoods where residents rely on public transportation to get to work raises questions of economic and racial injustice.
"I knew about the cancellations, but up until Sunday, my presumption was it was just typical problems between the state and management," he told necn Tuesday. "When you take service away from a lower income, predominantly non-white population and you take that exact same service and transfer it over to a more affluent, white population, it raises questions of discrimination."
Keolis spokeswoman Leslie Aun said in an email to the Globe that the company is 14 coaches short of the 359 required because of a maintenance inspection backlog. She said the company is adding to its mechanical team to complete inspections faster.
The MBTA said in a statement that it has asked Keolis to correct the problem.
"The cancellation of any train is unacceptable," the statement said, "and we are especially concerned if a cancellation could be perceived as inequitable to our low income or minority riders."