Back in 1995, the FTA asked transit advocates Robert Cervero (of the UC Berkeley planning school) and Samuel Seskins (of Parsons Brinckerhoff) whether transit let to changes in urban form. After reviewing the literature, they concluded that “Urban rail transit investments rarely “create” new growth, but more typically redistribute growth that would have taken place without the investment” (page 3). They added that this “redistribution” mainly favored central city downtowns at the expense of the suburbs.
I’ve been citing that study as definitive for many years, but recently someone asked me if there is anything more recent. As a matter of fact, there is.
In 2010, Brookings published Urban and Regional Policy and Its Effects (volume 3), which included a paper by USC planning professor Genevieve Giuliano and one of her colleagues that addressed the same question. Based on “more than three decades of research,” they “found little evidence that transit investment has had significant impacts on urban structure.”