The Need for Mechanisms to Prevent Displacement of Extremely Low-Income and Transit-Dependent Residents Near Public Transit

Project Summary

Transportation emissions are a primary cause of Los Angeles’ notoriously poor air quality, and long commutes. The region's inefficiently planned built environment is also responsible for the city’s excessive greenhouse gas emissions. Policymakers and “smart growth” advocates assert that intensifying land use around public transit-rail will help accomplish housing, transportation, economic development, and environmental goals by reducing dependence on single occupancy vehicles. However, recent studies reveal that rail development is linked to gentrification and displacement of public transit’s core ridership. This has the counterintuitive—and worrisome for social equity and sustainability goals—outcome of increasing car ridership and decreasing transit ridership as transit-dependent, low-income residents are displaced further away from access to public transportation. These residents are replaced with higher income, car-owning “choice riders.” This project analyzed a combination of quantitative, qualitative, and spatial data on gentrification and displacement pressures as well as outcomes near planned and existing public transit-rail stations. The study argues that, as public and private investment in public transit continues to increase in Los Angeles, it is vital that sustainability research and public policy questions on social equity and residential displacement evaluate the impacts this investment has on sustainability. This report offers tools to identify areas vulnerable to displacement. The study also makes policy recommendations that align transit development with affordable housing and public transportation development in an effort to prevent the displacement of Los Angeles' core public transit ridership.

Research Team

Lina Stepick
Sociology, Social Sciences

Advisor: Edward Walker
Sociology, Social Sciences

Progress and Results

The findings from this project on displacement and gentrification pressures and transit ridership informed the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s Health Impact Assessment (HIA) of Measure JJJ. The measure passed in November 2016 and is currently in implementation. Its goals are to incentivize affordable housing and jobs standards, particularly in developments near public transit. By incorporating analysis of zoning and density and the study's finding that the displacement of extremely low-income households leads to lower transit ridership and higher regional vehicle miles traveled into this policy and its evaluation, this study has supported organizing and advocacy efforts to deepen and expand affordability in development near transit.

Other Information of Interest