Sustainability and Displacement: Assessing the Spatial Pattern of Residential Moves Near Rail Transit

One of the most important yet under-studied rail transit issues is its impact on displacement of low-income households from transit-oriented neighborhoods. With affordable housing in short supply in many of the same cities that are aggressively building rail transit, displacement of low income residents has become a key policy debate. The question of income levels of residents living near transit stations is fundamental for understanding transit ridership 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 by displacing low-income persons it stands to reason that the impact of the rail system on sustainability may be less than if low-income households are not displaced after rail stations open.

For this project, the research team partnered with staff at the California Franchise Tax Board to use geocoded California income tax information to identify household residential location and household income levels, and track those households over time to assess whether low-income households migrate out of transit-oriented neighborhoods at disproportionate rates after rail service begins, and where those households moved.

The researchers aim to answer whether the presence of rail transit increases the outflow of lower-income neighborhood residents in Los Angeles County. They used a unique database of tax filers that tracks the income and location of households across 21 years at a fine spatial scale. This analysis aggregates household data to provide station-area population out-mobility rates for 35 rail station neighborhoods and 35 paired control neighborhoods along two Los Angeles Metro transit lines.


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