Extending public trans­porta­tion to a met­ro­pol­itan neigh­bor­hood for the first time can, in some cases, raise rents, bringing in a pop­u­la­tion of wealthier res­i­dents who would rather drive than take public transportation.

That’s the con­clu­sion of a report by the Kitty and Michael Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy, which found that new public transit invest­ments can some­times lead to gen­tri­fi­ca­tion that prices out renters and low-​​income households—people con­sid­ered core public-​​transportation users—working against the public goal of boosting transit ridership.

The study, released today, urged plan­ners and pol­i­cy­makers to con­sider the unin­tended con­se­quences of neigh­bor­hood gen­tri­fi­ca­tion when expanding or improving public transit, given the risk that transit invest­ment can cause unde­sir­able neigh­bor­hood change.

Transit plan­ners fre­quently speak of the need for transit-​​oriented devel­op­ment to sup­port rid­er­ship, but what transit sta­tions need is transit-​​oriented neigh­bors who will reg­u­larly use the system,” said Stephanie Pol­lack, the report’s lead author and asso­ciate director of the Dukakis Center.

In the neigh­bor­hoods (around the country) where new light rail sta­tions were built, almost every aspect of neigh­bor­hood change was mag­ni­fied,” added Barry Blue­stone, director of the Dukakis Center and the report’s coau­thor. “Rents rose faster; owner-​​occupied units became more preva­lent. Before transit was built, these neigh­bor­hoods had been dom­i­nated by low-​​income, renter households.”

The report, “Main­taining Diver­sity In America’s Transit-​​Rich Neigh­bor­hoods: Tools for Equi­table Neigh­bor­hood Change,” was funded by the Rock­e­feller Foun­da­tion. It includes new research ana­lyzing socioe­co­nomic changes in 42 neigh­bor­hoods in 12 met­ro­pol­itan areas across the United States first served by rail transit between 1990 and 2000.

The report’s find­ings, researchers said, also raise con­cerns about equity. Core transit riders are pre­dom­i­nantly people of color and/​or low-​​income who dis­pro­por­tion­ately live in transit-​​rich neigh­bor­hoods. Researchers cal­cu­lated that transit-​​served met­ro­pol­itan regions are cur­rently home to over half of all African Amer­i­cans, 60 per­cent of all His­panics and 70 per­cent of all immi­grants in the United States.

The report’s rec­om­men­da­tions include advising pol­i­cy­makers to get ahead of the issues using coor­di­nated and community-​​responsive plan­ning tools, and designing poli­cies that attract core and poten­tial transit users to these now transit-​​rich neigh­bor­hoods. To mod­erate increases in rents, future housing poli­cies should include funding for land and prop­erty acqui­si­tion, preser­va­tion of existing afford­able housing, and cre­ation of new afford­able housing, researchers said.

In con­junc­tion with the release of the report, the Dukakis Center launched a web-​​based Policy Toolkit for Equi­table Transit-​​Rich Neigh­bor­hoods, avail­able at http://​www​.dukakiscenter​.org/​T​R​N​E​q​u​ity.