Dwayne Baker
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How Light Rail Impacts Gentrification: Evidence from 14 U.S. Regions


A paradox exists concerning light rail transit (LRT) developments and research. On the one hand, planners and researchers expect LRT developments to have diverse benefits: enhanced economic activities, increased transit ridership, and less greenhouse gas emissions in station areas, among many others. However, due to these expected benefits, an unfortunate outcome may ultimately arise: gentrification. An increase in property values and rents is especially expected to occur in station areas as the desirability and increased accessibility makes station areas more coveted places to live.

I thus ask: To what extent is the presence of a light rail station associated with gentrification? I focus on examining socio-economic characteristics of residents rather than property values in measuring gentrification. To answer this question, I utilize spatial regression analyses to investigate the connection between LRT stations and neighborhood change longitudinally across 14 U.S. urbanized areas (UA) that built light rail systems in the 1980s and 1990s. Understanding whether or not LRT stations are associated with gentrification may help planners better plan for LRT station areas by identifying who may be impacted by station developments rather than what may be impacted.

Overall, I do not find evidence of prevalent gentrification in LRT station areas. An analysis of UA specific impacts shows heterogeneous outcomes across different UAs, particularly: strong transit oriented development (TOD) effects accompanied by gentrification in San Francisco and TOD effects with counter-gentrification in Portland. My results highlight that different local and regional planning efforts can influence different types of changes in transit station neighborhoods.

Dr. Dwayne Baker has joined the Department of City Planning as a Post-Doctoral Fellow for a 1-year term. Dr. Baker’s research interests lie at the intersection of community development and transportation planning, focusing specifically on social and spatial equity. He has examined how public transportation planning policies and activities relate to neighbourhood change and especially how they impact the most disadvantaged populations. Dr. Baker received a PhD in Regional Planning from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where his research focused on Transit Oriented Developments within St. Louis, Missouri, USA.

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Food for Thought
Thursday, October 27, 2016
12PM | Centre Space
John A. Russell Building
Faculty of Architecture
University of Manitoba