MEDIA RELEASE: Investments in public transit are vital, but must benefit all, report says

 MEDIA RELEASE: Investments in public transit are vital, but must benefit all, report says

Transit plans should consider equity components, such as affordable housing
 
RALEIGH (Nov. 2, 2011) – Investments in public transit improve life for North Carolinians by creating jobs, enhancing mobility and connecting our communities. But transit plans must be integrated with equitable housing policies and measures that will benefit the entire community, regardless of income bracket, a new report says.
 
Investments in public transportation create enormous opportunities for community development, said a report released this morning by the North Carolina Budget & Tax Center. However, research has also shown that building transit stations in neighborhoods can create higher housing costs, gentrification, and tends to attract high-income residents, creating a challenge for the many low-income residents who rely on public transit to commute to work.
 
As North Carolina’s policymakers move forward with plans to upgrade and extend public-transit options – such as high-speed rail, light rail, and bus rapid transit – they must also consider the individuals that most rely on public transit. Last year, the report said, 60 percent of North Carolinians traveling to work via public transit had incomes under $25,000.
 
“Investing in public transit is critical for North Carolina’s future,” said report author Tazra Mitchell, a public policy fellow with the NC Budget & Tax Center. “To maximize the benefits of public transportation, though, we have to be sure it benefits all segments of our communities.”
 
Housing and transportation account for 55.1 percent of expenditures for the average lower-income household in the U.S., the report said. While living near a bus or train stop could in fact free up many of these transportation expenses, the reverse can happen for housing costs.
 
Neighborhoods surrounding new transit stations are often dominated by renters and tend to experience increased housing costs and gentrification within the first few years of the transit service. Ultimately, the individuals living closest to the transportation hubs pre-transit service are at risk of being “priced out” of their neighborhood.
 
In order to ensure that transit investments benefit all citizens, the report said, transit plans need components such as affordable housing measures. Local policymakers could establish a housing trust fund to publically finance existing and new affordable housing units near planned transit hubs, or establish an acquisition fund that would purchase property near stations, where affordable housing could be preserved or produced.
 
“Transit plans that are not integrated with housing policies can lead to inequitable effects on lower-income and transit-dependent residents, straining rather than enhancing vulnerable communities’ connectivity to jobs and services,” Mitchell said. “Policymakers can require that transit plans include affordable-housing measures in order to achieve greater transportation equity and access for North Carolinians at all income levels.”
 
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Jeff Shaw, Director of Communications, NC Justice Center, jeff@ncjustice.org, 503.551.3615 (cell).
 
The N.C. Budget and Tax Center—a project of the N.C. Justice Center—seeks to create economic opportunity and shared prosperity for all North Carolinians through non-partisan research, education and advocacy on budget, tax and economic issues.