Maintaining Diversity in America’s Transit-Rich Neighborhoods: Tools for Equitable Neighborhood Change

Author: Stephanie Pollack, Barry Bluestone, and Chase Billingham

Americans are increasingly using transit and showing more interest in living in transit-rich neighborhoods. The U.S. now has 37 regional transit systems serving 41 metro areas that are home to more than 3,000 transit-rich neighborhoods (TRNs) with fixed-guideway (primarily rail) transit stations. Hundreds more such neighborhoods could be created over the next decade if current plans for new transit systems and stations are realized. For neighborhood and equity advocates however, this good news is tempered by a growing concern about gentrification and displacement that may be occurring in TRNs. Our report is based on research that was designed to address this dilemma, and is divided into the following four chapters:

Chapter 1 – Why Diversity Matters: Transit and Neighborhood Diversity

Using 2000 Census data, we calculate that nearly half of all Americans and more than two-thirds of all U.S. workers live in those 41 transit-served metros, as do over half of all blacks, 60 percent of all Hispanics and 70 percent of all immigrants in the United States. In addition, slightly more than half of all U.S. rental housing is located in transit-served metros. Understanding neighborhood change in TRNs therefore requires a detailed understanding of both who lived in those neighborhoods before the transit was built and who lives there afterward.

Chapter 2 – Neighborhood Change and Transit: What We Know

Gentrification, while frequently controversial, can be either good or bad for a neighborhood, depending on who benefits from the reinvestment and revitalization. Few studies have been done on gentrification in TRNs and those report varying results: in some cases new transit is put in place with little neighborhood change, while other TRNs experience extensive gentrification.

Chapter 3 – Neighborhood Change and Transit: What We Learned

Our research analyzes socioeconomic changes in 42 neighborhoods in 12 metropolitan areas first served by rail transit between 1990 and 2000, with a focus on a broad range of population, housing and transportation characteristics. We found that patterns of neighborhood change varied across TRNs, but that the predominant pattern was that with the addition of transit, housing stock became more expensive, neighborhood residents wealthier and vehicle ownership more common.

Chapter 4 – A Toolkit for Equitable Neighborhood Change in Transit-Rich Neighborhoods

The final chapter of the report summarizes a new web-based Policy Toolkit for Equitable Transit-Rich Neighborhoods.

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Published On: September 25, 2018
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