Impact of Light-Rail Transit on Neighborhood Composition: Preliminary Study of Charlotte, NC

Authors: Tonderai Mushipe*, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Delmelle Elizabeth, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Isabelle Nilsson, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Johanna Schuch, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Topics: Transportation Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: Light-rail transit, displacement, transit-oriented development, neighborhood change, survey analysis, key informants
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 4:30 PM / 6:10 PM
Room: Coolidge, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This presentation covers preliminary findings of a two-year National Science Foundation-funded study examining the impacts of light rail transit on neighborhood change and residential mobility along light rails. Specifically, this paper analyzes 349 resident surveys and 10 key informant interviews collected during Fall 2018 in Charlotte, NC, where an 18-mile light rail extension opened in March 2018. Preliminary results suggest a non-linear relationship between residents potentially moving and their income. Residents who have access to a car are more likely to never use light rail. Those without access to a car are more likely to use the light rail multiple times per week and per day. Increased rent/property taxes was the primary reason for moving out. Residents moving in are attracted by new multi-family housing and commercial assets but they have cars so the light rail is considered an amenity rather than a necessity. From the city’s perspective, the light rail considered a transportation asset but even more so a tool to direct development and generate tax revenues. Development companies are building luxury condos along the rail on underutilized or industrial land and there seems little evidence of displacement, though the neighborhoods most heavily affected by changes are historically African American with many older residents who have mixed feelings about the rail. City-wide there are concerns about affordable housing but the local government considers it ‘too late’ to plan affordable housing along the current light rail. Findings can inform housing, transportation and economic policies in Charlotte and similar locales.

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