Gentrification Near Rail Transit Areas: A Micro-Data Analysis of Moves into Los Angeles Metro Rail Station Areas

The issue of neighborhood impacts of new rail transit stations has received some attention from both researchers and the press. However, the lack of adequate, fine-grained data over time has precluded the formulation of a consensus view, to be implemented into policy. This lack of consensus may prevent timely or appropriate policy responses, against a backdrop of an affordable housing supply shortage in many of the same cities that are aggressively building rail transit.

The question of income levels of residents moving into transit-oriented developments (TODs) is fundamental for understanding changes in transit ridership, first- and last-mile design, parking needs, and the environmental impacts of rail transit. Because low-income persons use transit more and drive less than persons of higher income, if transit gentrifies neighborhoods and a larger proportion of higher-income households move in, the impact of the rail system on sustainability and on ridership may be lower than if the in-moving population has a more balanced income profile.

This project will use detailed data on household income and location, from year to year, to track whether rail-transit neighborhoods disproportionately gain higher-income households after transit service begins. The researchers will thus assess whether the access provided by new light rail construction serves as a positive amenity, attracting higher-income households, and possibly triggering a process of gentrification. This triggering effect may lead to a continued process of neighborhood change, wherein property values rise and new construction reflects higher rents, home prices, and office prices, in TODs. This information is crucial to understanding current debates regarding light rail transit and gentrification, and is also necessary to assess the sustainability of rail transit systems for all layers of the population in large metropolitan areas.

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