Study: Economic Displacement Is Bad for Transit Ridership

A TriMet transit agency analysis has identified a culprit in the decline of transit ridership in Portland: gentrification and displacement.
November 16, 2017, 8am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Tom Mills and Madeline Steele, staff for Portland's TriMet transit agency, write a post for TransitCenter presenting evidence of a newly discovered correlation between rising housing costs and declining transit ridership.

TriMet is one of many transit systems around the country challenged by declining ridership. In Portland, such losses have already been blamed on "a diverse range of factors including changing employment levels and recession era fare increases and service cuts," according to Mills and Steele. But "TriMet’s analysis surfaced one driver of ridership loss that stood out among the rest: the impact of the economic displacement of low-income earners from inner city neighborhoods to first ring suburbs."

The article details the methodology of TriMet's analysis, and provides context on the recent history of the Portland housing market. Mills and Steele then state a key findings with potentially far-reaching implications for the trend of gentrification and urban revitalization in in other cities around the country. "We found substantial overlap between areas where real market home value increased and transit ridership decreased the most," they write, and "transit ridership grew in areas that saw minimal increases in real market home values." 

To summarize: higher-wage earners moving into transit-rich neighborhoods use transit less that the lower-income residents who are departing these neighborhoods. 

Hat tip to Angie Schmitt for sharing the article.

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Published on Tuesday, November 14, 2017 in TransitCenter
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