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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Gentrification Near Rail Transit Areas: A Micro-Data Analysis of Moves into Los Angeles Metro Rail Station Areas


Rail transit and neighborhood compositional changes are becoming clearly linked in the public mind. Examples where rail transit has been associated, at least anecdotally, with neighborhood gentrification abound. In Washington, D.C., the Green and Yellow lines are associated with neighborhood transition north and east of downtown. In Los Angeles, the Gold, Expo, and Red/Purple lines have been associated with gentrification concerns (Zuk & Chapple, 2015a), and similar concerns have been raised regarding the soon-to-open Crenshaw Line. On balance, these same concerns are present in most large metropolitan areas that are building or expanding rail transit.

Gentrification is a process of neighborhood change characterized by increasing housing prices and changing demographic and socioeconomic composition of the neighborhood. These components of gentrification are often mutually reinforcing: changing composition can further increase housing prices and vice versa. Prior studies have raised the concern that rail transit expansion catalyzes or exacerbates gentrification (Zuk et al., 2017; Rayle, 2015).

This report seeks to shed light on this latter concern. It begins with a brief summary of the evidence from prior studies on both rail-related housing price increases and changing composition. It then introduces a newly available data source, which the authors use to examine the relationship between new rail transit station opening and neighborhood income composition. This report aims to determine whether a rail station opening in Los Angeles County is associated with the share and income composition of residents who move in and out of neighborhoods near that rail station. Specifically, the researchers address the following questions regarding gentrification and its tie to rail transit stations: (1) Who moves into rail-station neighborhoods and when? (2) Are higher income households growing as a share of station area population relative to lower-income households? (3) Do rail stations cause this phenomenon or is this happening regardless of the transit investment?

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