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Public transit agencies across the country must balance budget cutbacks, reduced operating funds and federal funding requirements with the need to maintain safe, secure and efficient systems to serve their customers and communities. In addition, transit agencies face myriad issues as they undertake the planning, design and construction of major capital projects. These hurdles, along with the complex requirements that are attached to the receipt of Federal Transit Administration (FTA) dollars, complicate the day-to-day management of public transit agencies. Our seasoned transit attorneys help agencies minimize the negative effects of these complications, allowing them to focus on delivering critical capital projects while maintaining their quality of service.

Our attorneys’ experience runs deep in this industry. We have represented public transit clients in nine of the nation’s 10 largest metropolitan areas and 18 of the top 20. Our experience ranges from procurement to labor issues, appropriations, contracting for services, major capital projects and compliance with obligations imposed by FTA. Our clients include public transit agencies; city, county and state governments; transit suppliers and transit consulting firms. We represent clients before the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the Department of Labor (DOL), the Congress, various state departments and agencies, and state and federal courts.

Thompson Coburn public transit attorneys wrote an award-winning Transportation Research Board (TRB) study, entitled “Guide to Section 13(c) Transit Labor Protections,” as well as TRB’s “Legal Handbook for the New Starts Process.” They have held positions within the DOT, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and on staffs in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. Their collective knowledge of the government’s perspective enables them to provide meaningful counsel on a wide range of federal transportation issues.

Special thanks to the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) for use of the image above.

Case Studies

Helping Chicago’s public transit agencies implement an innovative fare payment system

Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART)

Thompson Coburn filed a brief on behalf of DART in the U.S. Supreme Court, opposing a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari filed by Amalgamated Transit Union Local No. 1338. In the brief, DART opposed Amalgamated Transit Union Local No. 1338's request for a writ of certiorari to consider whether the Texas Supreme Court correctly held that Congress did not preempt, by implication, a Texas state governmental entity's immunity from suit when Congress enacted the Urban Mass Transit Act of 1964, and in particular Section 13(c) of that Act, which conditions a state transit entity's receipt of federal funds on the state workers' collective-bargaining rights. DART argued that the case did not warrant the Court's certiorari review because the Texas Supreme Court's decision aligns with the Court's constitutional precedent and the reach of, and limits on, Congress' constitutional authority. 

Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC)

We obtained a favorable ruling from the FTA granting the RTC a waiver of the Buy America requirements for the RTCs purchase of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) vehicles. After suffering a major downturn in sales tax revenues that fund the RTCs transit system, the RTC sought to "federalize" a $55 million contract for the purchase of BRT vehicles with the Wright Group from the United Kingdom. The waiver was opposed by a Buy America-compliant bus manufacturer at the urging of a trade association. Our attorneys authored the request to FTA, responded to the opposition, and assisted in garnering political and domestic manufacturing support. FTA granted the waiver – a decision that will enable the RTC to save $48 million in local funding and free up needed funds for the significant operating and capital needs of the Las Vegas system.

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA)

WMATA and other municipal transit systems nationwide faced billions of dollars of termination liabilities arising out of the recent credit freeze. WMATA and the other systems financed their acquisition of subway cars and buses with tax-advantaged deals known as SILOs (sale-in, lease-out) and LILOs (lease-in, lease-out) backed by AIG, Ambac and other sureties. The drop in the credit ratings of these securities triggered technical defaults and extraordinary accelerated termination payment liabilities, in this case $43 million, that jeopardized the systems continuing operations.

Taking the lead nationwide, WMATA filed suit in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. and prevailed in a temporary restraining order (TRO) proceeding to prevent the first of many of these transactions from unraveling. Following issuance of the TRO, and evidentiary hearing on a preliminary injunction was held. The court expressed serious concerns about the windfall recovery sought by the investor bank and urged the parties to resolve the dispute. Thompson Coburn negotiated resolution of the dispute, avoiding termination liability for WMATA.

Washington, D.C.
202 585 6928

Over the past 30 years, Tony has been a legal advisor to many of the nation's largest transit systems.

Over the past 30 years, Tony has been a legal advisor to many of the nation...

Tony Anderson
Washington, D.C.
202 585 6906

Eileen is a successful negotiator and strategist who focuses on her clients' goals while keeping an eye on the big picture.

Eileen is a successful negotiator and strategist who focuses on her clients...

Eileen Brown
Washington, D.C.
202 585 6982

Michael counsels clients on transportation matters, drawing on his previous experience at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and as an Honors Attorney at the U.

Michael counsels clients on transportation matters, drawing on his previous...

Michael Deutsch
Washington, D.C.
202 585 6929

Jayna advises companies, transportation authorities and other entities  throughout the various stages of the contracting process and litigation.

Jayna advises companies, transportation authorities and other entities ...

Jayna Marie Rust
Washington, D.C.
202 585 6924

Jane serves as counsel to transit agencies across the country on a range of issues from funding to project development to procurement.

Jane serves as counsel to transit agencies across the country on a range of...

Jane Sutter Starke