Jobs, Housing, and Transit: Patterns in Neighborhood Development

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Principal Investigator: Arthur C. Nelson, University of Arizona
Learn more about this research on the Project Overview page.

Researchers Robert Hibberd and Arthur C. Nelson at the University of Arizona are investigating the jobs-housing balance in transit neighborhoods. They're looking to identify patterns in the way that jobs and housing have concentrated near transit over time.

The paper they'll be presenting at this year's TRB annual meeting specifically looks at Chicago, before and after the great recession of 2008.

In the early 2000s, lower-income jobs were concentrated closest to transit. Higher-income jobs were spreading out to the suburbs, following the sprawl of development. The housing recession of 2008 seems to have caused that pendulum to swing back: from 2009 to 2014, higher-income jobs began crowding into the suddenly more competitive transit-adjacent areas.

The way these things are distributed matters for a lot of reasons. It's must-have info for planners, and also for policymakers who want to make their cities more attractive to potential businesses.

"Businesses are looking for cities that have good job-housing balance so they can attract the workers they need," Hibberd said.

Patterns change depending on the type of housing, the type of transit, and the type of jobs. Lower-income jobs tend to cluster near lower-cost transit such as bus lines, as does lower-income housing. A key component of equitable transit-oriented development, which has also been emphasized in other NITC research (Developing a model for Transit Oriented Development in Latino Immigrant Communities: A National Study of Equity and TOD), is to protect the existence of affordable housing in high-quality transit-oriented developments.

Nelson has conducted previous NITC research in this area, looking at the effects of new:

In the Chicago study, it wasn't easy to demarcate the effects of the city's various transit systems. "Chicago is kind of a difficult location because they've got established systems and they overlap a lot, so it's hard to piece out the difference between subway and light rail, for example," Hibberd said.

One clear finding that did emerge from the Chicago study is that there is a high degree of loss in Chicago of the percentage of low- and moderate- income workers living near jobs and transit stations. High-income workers are the only group, at a half-mile distance from transit and jobs of an appropriate wage level, that exhibit any degree of growth in numbers near those amenities.

The results of this study demonstrate the need for policy approaches that allow workers of all households to enjoy the benefits of rapidly increasing transit systems. One key to this accessibility is making sure new development is location efficient, so that people can bike, walk, drive or take transit to get to a high diversity of land uses, including jobs, housing, entertainment, offices, retail, and parks and green spaces.

  •  Related Lecture: This has also been emphasized in other NITC research: Assc. Professor Lisa K. Bates of Portland State University presented a lecture last week on "Investigating the Precarity of Affordable Rental Housing and the Potential for Displacement Along Planned Transit Lines" (watch the video).

A key benefit of this project is that Nelson and Hibberd are building an extensive database and making it available freely through NITC to enable other researchers to conduct micro-level analysis as well as in-depth longitudinal and comparative analyses. We anticipate this will be a valuable contribution to future research by academics, students, policy analysts, and transit organizations.

Robert Hibberd is a Ph.D. student and a graduate teaching assistant in the School of Geography & Development at the University of Arizona. Arthur C. Nelson is a professor of urban planning and real estate development in the College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture, and a professor of geography and regional development in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, at the University of Arizona.

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