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Unpacking the Relationship between Gentrification & Transportation

Gentrification is changing a neighborhood's character through the influx of more affluent residents and businesses. It is a common and controversial topic in urban politics and planning. Gentrification often increases the economic value of a neighborhood, but the resulting demographic displacement may become a significant social issue. Gentrification often sees a shift in a neighborhood's racial or ethnic composition and average household income as housing and businesses become more expensive and resources that had not been previously accessible are extended and improved. The gentrification process is typically the result of increasing attraction to an area by people with higher incomes from neighboring cities, towns, or neighborhoods.


Gentrification is an old phenomenon in the United States; however, from the year 2000 onwards, the rate of eligible tract gentrification in the 50 largest U.S. cities has more than doubled (20%) compared to the 1990 rate (8.6%) [1]. According to the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, more than 135,000 people were displaced between 2000 and 2012 [2]. Different reasons trigger gentrification in different areas. New transportation investments in neighborhoods are one of these reasons. Transportation investments in gentrified neighborhoods serve many purposes, such as increasing mobility and accessibility by deploying advanced transportation technologies, increasing public transportation ridership, reducing residents’ automobile dependence, and cutting commute distances to create livable, meaningful, opportunity-inducing, socially stimulating, and inclusive communities.


New transportation infrastructure provides citizens with mobility options while influencing land-use changes and supporting or redirecting economic development. However, these goals sometimes conflict when considering the far-reaching impact of transportation investment. Transit-oriented development (TOD) has been increasingly adopted worldwide, mainly around light-rail transport (LRT) and bus rapid transit (BRT), through various combinations and tactics. Transportation projects are widely promoted as effective methods for increasing the transportation system’s efficiency and sustainability performance while simultaneously spurring local development and improving quality of life in otherwise declining areas. These new transportation improvements in low-income areas may increase residents’ access to options that could improve their economic prospects and are associated with improved labor market results [3,4]. However, increased accessibility may raise demand for property near these areas, putting tremendous pressure on housing values and rents, potentially leading to a disproportionate outflow of existing inhabitants who would benefit the most from transportation system infrastructure upgrades.


As transportation improvement encourages real estate investment, land values will likely rise, limiting low-income populations' access to housing and their ability to maintain current residences. As a result, low-income families may be displaced by wealthier groups. Some scholars have delved deeper into the issue of equality and used prices as a proxy for gentrification consequences [5]. Researchers and policymakers have suggested in different studies that TOD interventions could lead to gentrification and the eventual relocation of low-income people [6-8].


The negative consequence of gentrification starts as transportation investment and interventions aim to increase ridership (for transit authorities and operators) and property tax revenue (for local governments) while also addressing the high costs associated with requirements, such as zoning and regulatory changes, coordination with transit agencies, public space design, and the provision of local amenities (place-making). Newly improved transportation facilities are intended to attract investments by private-led developments that must be financed through housing construction aimed at upper-income residents [7]. In addition, these new, well-designed urban spaces attract young professionals [8] for the newly added transit system and the associated attributes of this newly built and social environment. Some attractive characteristics include land use mix, amenities, lifestyle services, open space, and green areas [9]. Even if gentrifiers rarely utilize public transportation, innovative development and new urbanism approaches can contribute to a modern and progressive image of the places that adopt them.


Such approaches are regularly used to recruit qualified workers and employment [10]. Thus, gentrification has been primarily viewed as a negative phenomenon, raising concerns about the possible relocation of low-income groups and a rise in or escalation of local disputes due to increased housing costs, rising food prices, and a loss of community identity [11]. Gentrification also leads to losing people's geographical link to their employers. Displaced workers' jobs may be jeopardized, and this problem may be worsened by the expected rise in transportation expenses associated with longer commute distances. In addition, it has been challenging to demonstrate displacement, and the new home sites chosen by displaced people are mostly unknown [12]. People who have been displaced may accept more expensive, risky, or overcrowded accommodations. They may have negative psychological issues due to the prospect of relocation [13], the need to relocate to urban outskirts and become more car-dependent, a lack of access to services and facilities, or living in less health-supportive built environments [14].


As a result, newly constructed transportation infrastructure (e.g., new transit lines, intelligent transportation systems, etc.) may ultimately fail to give accessibility benefits to people who most require it. First, the transit-related displacement theory suggests that those needing transit would lose access to stations, resulting in lower transit use among poorer demographics. Second, better-off households moving into TOD-served areas would have more cars than the now displaced prior inhabitants, primarily if on- and off-street parking is still available [9]. Third, although wealthier inhabitants frequently switch to non-car modes after moving to a TOD region, their presence would not compensate for income losses caused by the displacement of the poorest households because they frequently prefer cycling to public transportation [10].


Research is needed to examine and define the specific role of transportation investment in contributing to the adverse effects of gentrification and the investment decision-making processes that lead to them.


References

  1. Maciag,Mike. (2015). Gentrification in America Report. Governing: The future of State and Localities. Retrieved: https://www.governing.com/archive/gentrification-in-cities-governing-report.html

  2. Richardson, J., Mitchell, B., & Edlebi, J. (2020). Gentrification and disinvestment 2020. Retrieved from: https://ncrc.org/gentrification20/#:~:text=Nationally%2C%20out%20of%20the%2072%2C668,time%20period%20(Table%202)

  3. Andersson, F., Haltiwanger, J. C., Kutzbach, M. J., Pollakowski, H. O., & Weinberg, D. H. (2017). Job Displacement and the Duration of Joblessness: The Role of Spatial Mismatch. The Review of Economics and Statistics, 100(2), 203–218.

  4. Jin, J., & Paulsen, K. (2018). Does accessibility matter? Understanding the effect of job accessibility on labour market outcomes. Urban Studies, 55(1), 91-115.

  5. Immergluck, D., & Balan, T. (2018). Sustainable for whom? Green urban development, environmental gentrification, and the Atlanta Beltline. Urban Geography, 39(4), 546–562.

  6. Jones, C. E., & Ley, D. (2016). Transit-oriented development and gentrification along metro Vancouver’s low-income SkyTrain corridor. The Canadian Geographer / Le Géographe canadien, 60(1), 9–22.

  7. Cappellano, F., & Spisto, A. (2014). Transit oriented development & social equity: From mixed use to mixed framework. Advanced Engineering Forum, 11, 314–322.

  8. Rayle, L. (2015). Investigating the connection between transit-oriented development and displacement: Four hypotheses. Housing Policy Debate, 25(3), 531–548.

  9. 9. Chatman, D. G. (2013). Does TOD need the T? Journal of the American Planning Association, 79(1), 17– 31

  10. Danyluk, D., & Ley, D. (2007). Modalities of the new middle class ideology and behavior in the journey to work in gentrified neighborhoods in Canada. Urban Studies, 44(11), 2195–2210.

  11. Clagett, M. T. (2015). If it’s not mixed-income, it won’t be transit-oriented: Ensuring our future developments are equitable & promote transit. Transportation, 41(1), 1–32.

  12. Chapple, K., Loukaitou-sideris, A., Chatman, D., Waddell, P., & Ong, P. (2017). Developing a new methodology for analyzing potential displacement. Sacramento, CA: California Air Resources Board.

  13. Twigge-Molecey, A. (2014). Exploring resident experiences of indirect displacement in a neighbourhood undergoing gentrification: The case of Saint-Henri in Montréal. Canadian Journal of Urban Research, 23(1), 1–22.

  14. Cole, H. V. S., Garcia Lamarca, M., Connolly, J. J. T., & Anguelovski, I. (2017). Are green cities healthy and equitable? Unpacking the relationship between health, green space and gentrification. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 71(11), 1118–1121.


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