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"Free To Ride" Documentary Exploring Beavercreek-RTA Dispute Coming To Columbus

“Free To Ride” documentary Kirwan institute Ohio State
Courtesy Greater Dayton RTA

The long-running feud between Greater Dayton RTA and the city of Beavercreek over public-transportation access is the subject of a new feature-length documentary film currently being shown in Washington, D.C. The film, called “Free To Ride,” premiered Friday at the D.C. Independent Film Festival and comes to Ohio State University on March 1.

Free To Ride, produced by the Ohio State University Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, highlights a Montgomery County community group’s efforts to improve access to jobs and education in and around the Fairfield Commons mall.

The organization Leadership for Equality and Action in Dayton brought a civil rights complaint alleging bus stops were located too far from the mall and nearby colleges, forcing people to walk in traffic on their way to and from work and school, producer Matthew Martin says.

“So they found out that people were actually getting off of the end of the bus route at Wright State and walking over that really dangerous 675 overpass to get to jobs,” he says.

The federal government found the lack of bus stops violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Ultimately, the government threatened to take back more than $10 million in federal funding if Beavercreek blocked public transportation. 

“Access to opportunity, implicit bias, structural inequality and racism. We just thought it was a powerful and timely story. So we just picked it up and ran with it, and we learned along the way.”
The four-year battle over public transit access ended when the Beavercreek city council approved new RTA bus stops along Pentagon Boulevard and at the mall. Buses began running in 2014, opening access to Clark State Community College and ITT Tech as well as jobs along Pentagon Boulevard and inside the Mall at Fairfield Commons. 

Miami Valley residents can catch Free To Ride at a screening in Columbus on March 1 at Ohio State University’s Knowlton School of Architecture.