Transit and Gentrification

Treehugger analyzes a report from Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy that suggests that good transit leads to gentrification in neighborhood where it's built. The argument follows that this is problematic, thus, because it pushes out people who need public transit and allows people to move in who can afford alternatives and only want transit as a luxury.

(from thisisbossi on Flickr)

I'm not going to refute that a lot of transit-oriented-development, especially in a city like DC, is designed to cater to the District's well-off population. But I'm not convinced that this is absolutely harmful to the low income residents in the city.

Consider an alternative... Well-off people live exclusively in the suburbs. They can afford cars, so it doesn't much matter whether their neighborhoods are well served by transit. The problem here is that a lot of service-sector jobs will follow the money. Businesses like restaurants, retail stores, etc. Low income workers, on the other hand, live in the city. They have decent public transit options near their homes, but those transit options don't extend into the suburbs, where a good chuck of working-class jobs now exist.

In a perfect world, the working-class would live in the same neighborhoods as their service-sector jobs. Unfortunately, this is rarely the reality.

The solutions to these issues are very complex, and I know that I don't have all the answers. But in thinking about transit and gentrification, it's definitely more of a question of whether those who can least afford it live near public transit; because if public transit can't take them to the places where they need to go, what value does it really have?


    On October 26, 2010 Anonymous said...

    i have a very simple solution -- institute a real progressive income tax system instead of the current regressive system we currently have. done and done. it may not be politically viable at the moment to stop socializing/subsidizing the rich in such luxurious fashion, but it's simple, and hopefully we eventually do it.

    start by nixing home buying subsidies and tax credits.


    You need a bigger transit system, and you need to make sure the transit stops are centers of employment as well as residential. The rich are always going to grab the best real estate, no matter how that's defined. The trick is to make sure that the non-rich can participate.

    The car based transportation system serves people who can afford cars (which turns out to be most people when there are no alternatives) pretty well, and fairly equitably, but it serves people who can't afford cars (or can't drive for other reasons) very very badly.