Neighborhood Change and Transit Ridership in Southern California

Authors: Hannah King*, Department of Urban Planning, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, University of California - Los Angeles, Michael Manville, Associate Professor of Urban Planning, Department of Urban Planning, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, University of California- Los Angeles
Topics: Transportation Geography
Keywords: Transit, migration, Southern California
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 33
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In the United States, transit is largely a lifeline social service for low-income people (Taylor & Morris, 2015). This function has eroded, however, to the extent that low-income people have been displaced from transit-rich areas (Bardaka, Delgado, & Florax, 2018). We test the extent to which this trend is evident using data from Southern California. We do so in two parts. First, we match changes in Census tract-level rents and housing burdens to changes in transit boardings, and show that across two time periods—2008-2012 and 2013-2017—as housing prices rise boardings fall. This finding is robust to a broad array of controls. It only suggests, however, that neighborhood change is associated with falling neighborhood ridership. It remains possible that lower-income people no longer living in high-transit neighborhoods ride just as much once they move elsewhere. To address this possibility, in the second part of our analysis we use migration data to show that over the same time period people who left Census tracts with large ridership losses disproportionately located in lower-density census tracts with fewer transit stations and lower transit accessibility. In other words, these people relocated to tracts with comparatively poor transit infrastructure that discouraged transit use.



Bardaka, E., Delgado, M.S., & Florax, R.J.G.M. (2018). Causal identification of transit-induced gentrification and spatial spillover effects: The case of the Denver light rail. Journal of Transport Geography, 71, 15-31.

Taylor, B.D., & Morris, E.A. (2015). Public transportation objectives and rider demographics: are transit’s priorities poor public policy?. Transportation, 42, 347-367.

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