The National Academies

TCRP Synthesis J-07/Topic SB-34 [Active (Synthesis)]

Coordination of Public Transit Services and Investments with Affordable Housing Policies

  Project Data
Funds: 45,000.00
Authorization to Begin Work: 5/1/2020 -- estimated
Staff Responsibility: Mariela Garcia-Colberg
Research Agency: MZ Strategies, LLC
Principal Investigator: Mariia Zimmerman
Effective Date: 10/6/2020
Fiscal Year: 2020

Final Scope


Public transit serves many societal objectives. Among these, one of the most important is to provide mobility options to disadvantaged populations, including economically disadvantaged and those without access to automobiles.

There has always been recognition among transit planners and researchers of the importance of coordinating transportation, transit, and land use planning. This typically involves trying to increase densities and encouraging mixed land uses near higher capacity transit services, through Transit Oriented Development (TOD) or Joint Development projects. 

However, in the last ten years, there has been an increased sensitivity concerning the equity implications of transit services and investments, and in parallel a growing recognition by researchers of the urban dynamics leading to increased gentrification in cities and to the suburbanization of poverty.  As city cores become more vibrant and offer more services, they become more attractive, in particular to higher income population segments that can bid up land value and rents, which in turn forces lower income populations out of traditional neighborhoods towards suburban locations.  It turns out that accessibility to high capacity transit is one of the features that makes locations more attractive, resulting in the sad irony that transit investments end up, as a result of the above dynamic, not serving as well as was envisioned those that would be most likely benefit from the transit investments.  A growing number of researchers have highlighted the combined dynamic of urban gentrification and suburbanization of poverty (Hulchanski), and of the transit / affordable housing dilemma (Lownes, Kramer).

There has been at the same time, much emphasis on understanding and addressing the equity implications of transit, as exemplified by an increased focus on Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that protects people from discrimination in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance, and these have been articulated in related federal mandates.  As a result of this increased focus, there has been considerable research on equity and accessibility measures, as well as practical guidance on how to assess the equity implications of transit decisions and investments. A parallel effort among affordable housing and community development practitioners, known as equitable TOD (eTOD), has also developed in the last few years as a counter to traditional TOD projects to operationalize the important connection between transportation, neighborhood stability and affordable housing.


However, there has been little systematic practical guidance for transit agencies and their external partners, to identify approaches and practical tools that could be used to coordinate transit (in terms of both investments and services) and affordable housing policies and programs.  The organizational challenges are considerable since transit is primarily organized on a regional basis, while housing policies are generally municipal, and planners for each tend to work in independent silos.  When major new transit investments (e.g., for subways or Light Rail Transit) are being planned, there are often efforts to develop secondary area plans around transit stations to encourage TOD, and in some cases these provide for inclusionary zoning requirements as well.  Such efforts to coordinate existing transit services and affordable housing policies are disparate, local and ad-hoc in nature. 

The goal of this synthesis is to identify the potential mechanisms (both policies and programs) to coordinate public transit (both services and capital investments) with construction, operation, protection and preservation of affordable housing. The study will synthesize the state of the practice of transit system coordination with affordable housing initiatives in the broader sense [including but not limited to transit oriented development (TOD)].  

Information gathered will include (not an inclusive list):

·       How does your agency lead in the coordination of affordable housing and transit?  What is the agency’s role?


·       How does your agency partner in developing initiatives with communities, housing and development agencies and others?


·       What does the agency contribute to the actual plans of affordable housing?


·       What are the underlying motivations (incentive programs, funding, climate change, etc.) for the coordination?


·       What hurdles or challenges have you encountered? Have these been overcome? How? Where there any unintended consequences (positive or negative)?

·       How does your agency identify and address the community priorities for housing and transit?  How does your agency work with the community to discuss meaningful ways to avoid and address displacement?


·       How does your agency’s policies and programs avoid displacement and support housing stability?


·       How do you track or measure the impact of your efforts?


Information will be gathered by a literature review (e.g. agency reports, peer reviewed journal articles, web articles) and a survey on a broad range of North American transit agencies (diverse in terms of geography, socioeconomics, size, governance, mode and level of service).  The report should include a minimum of 5 case examples representing a diversity of transit modes that will gather information on the state-of-the-practice, emphasizing lessons learned, challenges, and gaps. The needs for future research should also be discussed.

Information Sources:

Hulchanski, D., The Three Cities within Toronto: Income Polarization among Toronto’s Neighbourhoods, 1970 — 2000, http://www.urbancentre.utoronto.ca/pdfs/curp/tnrn/Three-Cities-Within-Toronto-2010-Final.pdf

Lownes, N. et al., Investigating the Linkage between Transit Access to Services and Affordable Housing Availability, https://cammse.uncc.edu/sites/cammse.uncc.edu/files/media/CAMMSE-UNCC-2018-UTC-Project-Information-10-Lownes.pdf

 TRB Staff 
Mariela Garcia-Colberg
Phone: 202-334-2361
Email: mgarciacolberg@nas.edu

Meeting Dates
First Panel: October 6, 2020
Teleconference with Consultant: November 5, 2020
Second Panel: June 15, 2020

Topic Panel

     Jonathan Brooks, LINK Houston

     Wiley Brooks, Alabama Department of Transportation

     Amar Cid, Department of Transportation, California

     KeAndra Cylear Dodds, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority

     Robert Ginsburg, Center on Work and Community Development

     Abdiaziz Ibrahim, Metropolitan Council

     Victoria Perk, USF Center for Urban Transportation Research

     Elizabeth Presutti, Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority

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