The Transit-Development Nexus

Sam Staley argues in The Business Journal that the conventional wisdom about the relationship between transit and economic development is incorrect:

Transit ridership is not driving property development decisions around light rail stations. Other factors are, although most studies have done little to tease out the real causes and relationships.


The point is not that transit can’t spur economic development. Rather, the concern is that planners and elected officials should not presume that simply improving access to mass transit will goose development in a significant way. The relationship between investment near rail stations and transit ridership is not direct.


Understanding the proper role of transit in promoting urban development is important for public policy. Whether we build great urban places or emphasize higher transit use is not a “chicken and egg” choice. Great urban places come first because their benefits offset the individual and social costs of greater dependence on a less flexible, restricted mode of transportation.

In the end, higher transit use is an outcome, not an input, in economic development and urban redevelopment.