The Eastsider, a Los Angeles publication, has suggested a new explanation for that city’s spectacular decline in bus ridership: gentrification. Rising housing prices have forced many low-income transit riders to distant suburbs while the people moving into gentrified neighborhoods have higher incomes, more cars, and are less likely to ride transit.
The Eastsider bases this idea on a story in Curbed Los Angeles, which offers four explanations for declining ridership: traffic congestion slowing down buses; service cuts; low-cost fuel; and high-cost housing. “Many of the most transit accessible neighborhoods in Los Angeles are significantly more expensive, and home to more affluent demographics than they once were,” says the publication. “As the transit-riding demographics get priced out of relatively central and transit-friendly neighborhoods, and move to the cheaper but more far-flung and car dependent suburbs, ridership suffers.”
While I’m not discounting this as a partial explanation, Curbed LA never even mentioned Uber and Lyft, which the Antiplanner has estimated may be responsible for more of the decline in transit ridership than all of the other explanations put together. Aside from that, there are plenty of reasons to think that gentrification plays only a tiny role in transit ridership, even in Los Angeles. Continue reading