Transit-oriented development? More like transit rider displacement

For five years, pundits, planners, and policy-makers have scratched their heads at Los Angeles’ steep public transit ridership decline: a 21% decrease on buses,15% in total. To explain it, they cite ride-sharing, cheap gas, even the law that lets undocumented immigrants get licenses to drive. But another answer should be obvious: We lose transit riders when we displace the low-income families who rely on it.

Data from Policy Link/PERE shows that L.A.’s transit riders are mostly low-income black and Latinos: 88% of Metro bus riders are people of color, and more than 50% have annual family incomes under $15,000. When they lose housing near bus or rail lines, they lose access to transit…

We have a name for this kind of displacement: Gentrification. It pushes out low-income residents of color, the same populations most likely to take public transportation.

But transit in Los Angeles isn’t just suffering because of gentrification, it’s causing gentrification. According to a recent UCLA/Berkeley study, transit-adjacent L.A. neighborhoods gentrify at higher rates than other neighborhoods. It’s part of the plan…

If we want to stave off further transit ridership losses — not to mention meet our obligations as human beings to each other — we need to establish a new common-sense planning policy. We must prioritize tenants, not the supply of housing units. Stable housing should be a human right. With universal rent control and more public housing, we would link the well-being of low-income Angelenos of color to a greener future for our city of cars.

The cure to the displacement and ridership crises won’t come from more of the cause…


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