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The Effects of Transit-Oriented Development: A Case Study of MARTA Neighborhoods

A public transit stop, whether it be part of a heavy rail, light rail, bus, or bus rapid transit system, can have a very real impact on its surroundings.  It can revitalize the neighborhood economy by providing new access points for retail, give locals without a car access to new job opportunities in other areas of town, it can reduce crime, it can change the racial makeup of a region.  But much of the literature ignores these statistics, choosing instead to only focus on public transit’s effect on local property values.  In this piece, I explore a case study of 12 Atlanta neighborhoods and how they demographically shifted in the decades after they received railroad transit stations.

Click here to view my presentation

Or click here to view a rough draft of my research

Brian Simel


Bollinger, Christopher R., and Keith R. Ihlanfeldt. “The Impact of Rapid Rail Transit on Economic             Development: The Case of Atlanta’s MARTA.” Journal of Urban Economics 42 (1997): 179-204.        Web. 6 Dec. 2010.

Chen, Joyce, Mark Hamilton, Nick Kindel, Ian Macek, and Meghan Pinch. “Transit Oriented         Development and Cluster Developments.” 1-11. Web. 23 Sept. 2010.    <http://courses.washington.edu>.

Dawson, Christie R. Transit Ridership Report: Third Quarter 2009. Rep. American Public Transportation             Association. Print.

Elliott, Mark. “MARTA Rail and Offices.” Atlanta Business Chronicle 20 Oct. 2010. BizJournals. 20 Oct.       2010. Web. 6 Dec. 2010.

Grass, Gail. “The Estimation of Residential Property Values Around Transit Station Sites in           Washington, D.C.” Journal of Economics and Finance 16.2 (1992): 139-46. SpringerLink. Web. 6      Dec. 2010.

Ihlanfeldt, Keith R. “Rail Transit and Neighborhood Crime: The Case of Atlanta, Georgia.” Southern           Economic Journal 70.2 (2003): 273-94. ProQuest. Web. 6 Dec. 2010.

MARTA Homepage. 2009. Web. 6 Dec. 2010. <http://www.itsmarta.com>.

Niles, John, and Dick Nelson. “Measuring the Success of Transit-Oriented Development: Retail     Market Dynamics and Other Key Determinants.” Proc. of American Planning Association       National Planning Conference. 31 Aug. 2006. Web. 23 Sept. 2010.      <http://www.community-wealth.org/_pdfs/articles-publications/tod/paper-niles-            nelson.pdf>.

O’Toole, Randal. “Defining Success: The Case Against Rail Transit.” Policy Analysis 663 (2010). Cato         Institute, 22 May 2010. Web. 23 Sept. 2010.     <http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1612782>.

Perk, Victoria A., and Martin Catala. Land Use Impacts of Bus Rapid Transit: Effects of BRT Station       Proximity on Property Values along the Pittsburgh Martin Luther King, Jr. East Busway. Rep. no.            FTA-FL-26-7109.2009.6. US Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration,     Dec. 2009. Web. 6 Dec. 2010.

Durham and Chisinau: Urban Revitalization through Adaptive Re-Use of Industrial Structures

Durham’s recent revival of its downtown’s economic and social activity can be used as a model for other cities with similar post-industrial disinvestment.   Besides being relevant for analogous American cities, Durham’s redevelopment strategies are even more pertinent for post-Soviet cities that are still undergoing industrial downsizing and could learn to prevent further urban degeneration.

Click here to view the presentation where I discuss these issues.

Kseniya Benderskaya

Optimal Business Location Model

The idea behind this paper is to create a model that will predict the optimal place for a business to locate. In order to ensure long run viability, a firm must understand the idea of optimal business location. In the designing of a strategy, it is important to not only evaluate the present market environment but to also account for possible future change. This paper will demonstrate the core ideas behind a comprehensive location model that will predict the optimal location for a business. The effectiveness of the model will be evaluated by using past data in Durham, North Carolina to predict current retail development and to see if the trend recognized would be able to correctly identify the location choices of firms. Further analysis will show what this foretells for Durham’s future retail locations.

The remainder of the paper can be found here.

A presentation on this topic can also be found here.


1. Chi S.C., Kao S.S., Kuo R.J., “A decision support system for selecting convenience store location through integration of fuzzy AHP and artificial neural network.” Elsevier Science B.V., June 15, 2001.

2. Craig Samuel, Ghosh Avijit. “Formulating Retail Location Strategy in a Changing Environment.” The Journal of Marketing, Vol. 47, No. 3, 1983. pp 56-68.

3. Glaeser, Edward L., Rosenthal, Stuart S., Strange, William C., “Urban Economics and Entrepreneurship.” National Bureau of Economic Research. Working Paper 15536.

4. Huff, David L., “A Programmed Solution for Approximating an Optimum Retail Location.” Land Economics Vol. 42 No. 3, Aug. 1966. pp 293-303.

What’s wrong with urban sprawl?

Urban is hip. Bikes, messenger bags, and apartment-sized dogs are in. Increasingly, young, educated professionals are disavowing the suburban dreams of their parents’ generation and moving to city centers.1 This trend embodies a long-held academic suspicion that urban sprawl is both economically wasteful and socially disadvantageous.2 However, despite emerging consensus about the existence and causes of sprawl, its consequences are much less clear and economists have so far failed to fully articulate the reasons why what so many people think they know is true- that sprawl is bad.

Despite this uncertainty, hundreds of ballot measures have been introduced to combat urban sprawl, and a large percentage of them have passed.3 Accurate information about sprawl is all the more important given the huge ethical implications anti-sprawl policy measures; i.e., is it fair to create open space rings around a city because they look and feel good if they drive up real estate prices in the city for everyone, even the poor? This student paper explores the limitations of traditional urban growth models for analyzing sprawl, considers the direction taken by new models, and identifies important areas of future study to help inform these critical policy choices.

What’s Wrong with Sprawl?

1 See The Brookings Institute, The State of Metropolitan America, http://www.brookings.edu/metro/StateOf Metro America.aspx.

2 Thomas Nechyba and Randall Walsh, Urban Economics, Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 18, 177–200, at 177 (2004) (hereinafter Nechyba).

3 Nechyba, at 177; Sierra Club, Sprawl: The Dark Side of the American Dream, 1998, http://www.si-erraclub.org/sprawl/report98/report.asp.

Eminent Domain in Urban Areas

© Mike Lester, www.caylecartoons.com

The constitutional issue of eminent domain rose to prominence in national political dialogue after the landmark Supreme Court Case Kelo v. New London in 2005. Once a right reserved for government takings for “public uses,” like highways and schools, Kelo legitimized the government’s right to seize property for the “public good-” specifically economic development.   This broadly expanded the strength of the government power, and many viewed the ruling as a significant step backwards in securing strong property rights in the United States (few savored the idea of their family home being labeled “blighted” so Chicago could build another movie theater or Outback Steakhouse).  While many a paper has been penned on the political ramifications of the court case, few academics have researched the economic and socioeconomic impact the use of eminent domain can have on an urban area.

This literature survey will address the literature we do have- its effectiveness in correcting market inefficiencies (urban renewal and urban sprawl) and whether the usage of eminent domain inherently “targets” a minority or impoverished population.  Miceli and Sirmans pontificate on the holdout problem and urban sprawl, O’Flaherty evaluates the effectiveness of urban renewal on a theoretic level, and Carpenter and Ross examines a racial, economic, and educational bias inherent in eminent domain.


Brueckner, J. (2000). Urban sprawl: diagnosis and remedies. International Regional Science Review, 23(2), Retrieved from doi: 10.1177/016001700761012710

Carpenter, D.M., & Ross, J.K. (2009). Testing O’Connor and Thomas: Does the Use of Eminent Domain Target Poor and Minority Communities?. Urban Studies, 46(11), doi: 10.1177/0042098009342597

Miceli, T.J., & Sirmans, C.F. (2007). The holdout problem, urban sprawl, and eminent domain. Journal of Housing Economics, 16. doi: 10.1016/j.jhe.2007.06.004

O’Flaherty, B. (1994). Land assembly and urban renewal. Regional Science and Urban Economics, 24, 287-300.

The Efficacy of Transit-Oriented Development

Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) is one of the most contentious topics in modern urban planning.  The basic concept of TOD is that local governments can and should encourage decreased dependence on automobiles by creating convenient public transit nodes and supporting high-density development in the immediate vicinity of these points.  This often comes in the form of new rail-transit investments and is lauded as an important tool in the fight against urban sprawl.  New Urbanists see in TOD an opportunity to encourage high-density, mixed-use development like never before.  More conservative purists, however, argue that these TOD neighborhoods represent unwanted and inefficient market distortions that cater only to upper-class snobs too pretentious to ride a bus.  The outcome of this debate will have critical implications on the built landscape of our urban environments for decades to come.

Click here to learn more!


Chen, Joyce, Mark Hamilton, Nick Kindel, Ian Macek, and Meghan Pinch. “Transit Oriented Development and Cluster Developments.” 1-11. Web. 23 Sept. 2010. <http://courses.washington.edu>.

Niles, John, and Dick Nelson. “Measuring the Success of Transit-Oriented Development: Retail Market Dynamics and Other Key Determinants.” Proc. of American Planning Association National Planning Conference. 31 Aug. 2006. Web. 23 Sept. 2010.< www.community-wealth.org/_pdfs/articles-publications/tod/paper-niles-http://nelson.pdf>

O’Toole, Randal. “Defining Success: The Case Against Rail Transit.” Policy Analysis 663 (2010). Cato Institute, 22 May 2010. Web. 23 Sept. 2010.<http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm? abstract_id=1612782>.

By: Brian Simel

Public Transportation and the Spatial Evolution of Chinese Cities

China is urbanizing at a rapid rate. The country is expected to have 926 million city-dwellers by 2025, and over a billion by 2030. This unprecedented scale of urbanization represents a huge strain on local and global resources. It is clear that such development is unsustainable if China follows the US model of city growth. In this paper, I explore how the development of public transportation networks in Chinese metropolises affect their spatial evolution, and how public transport provides a critical tool for sustainable growth

The full document can be found here


Frank, Lawrence D., and Gary Pivo. “Impacts of Mixed Use and Density on Utilization of Three Modes of Travel: Single-Occupant Vehicle, Transit, and Walking.” Transportation Research Record 1466 (1994). Web.

Kenworthy, Jeff, and Gang Hu. “Transport and Urban Form in Chinese Cities.” DISP 0251-3625.151 (2002). Web.

Muller, Peter O. “Transportation and Urban Form: Stages in the Spatial Evolution of the American Metropolis.” The Geography of Urban Transportation. Comp. Susan Hanson. New York: Guilford, 1986. Print.

The Perfect Storm

While scouring databases for manuscripts to review for our survey assignment, I stumbled upon an amazing find. In 1988, Greg Mankiw wrote a manuscript titled The Baby Boom, The Baby Bust, And The Housing Market. In it, he successful predicts the economic crisis of today using data from housing prices and birth rates. He later went on to become one of the most prominent economists of our time. A quick summary of his accomplishments can be found HERE, along with links to his most prominent works. If you care to keep up with his current activities, his blog can be read HERE.
Greg Mankiw
(Greg Mankiw)

The remainder of this blog covers the the literature survey that incorporates Mankiwi’s work in with two others.
The advancement of knowledge is a double-edged blade that has been able to both provide society with immense benefits, while at the same time slice out the general foundation of thought from which these benefits were spawn. Many times the truth is lost or forgotten for a greater assumption just because it is accepted throughout a community. Time and time again, popular mediocracy distorts our perception, controlling the ideas that become the ‘truth’. The purpose of this survey is to use three works written in 1988, 2002 and 2008 to analyze how, in context of the housing market, the social and economic pitfalls of each era led to the major crash in 2007. The ultimate goal is to provide a probable cause as to why no one was able to identify or correct the financial crisis before it occurred. The results of this survey show that rather than a single cause, the depression was the result of a trifecta of social and economic issues that each contributed to create the perfect storm that would catch society with its pants down.

Click HERE to keep reading.

The three sources used in this survey were:
1. The Baby Boom, The Baby Bust, And The Housing Market by Gregory Mankiw
2. An Analysis of North Carolina Lending Laws by Gregory Elliehausen and Michael E. Staten
3. Subprime Lending and the Housing Bubble by Major Coleman IV, Michael LaCour-Little and Kerry D. Vandell

— by Mitchel Gorecki —

Bull City Rising’s Kevin Davis Visits

Kevin Davis showing job density in the Triangle AreaYesterday evening, urban economics students learned about Durham’s history and development from Kevin Davis, the creator of the popular Bull City Rising blog about Durham. Here Davis shows where jobs are concentrated in the Triangle Area. – Melissa Eggleston, Communications, Duke Economics

Foster St. (Washington to Chapel Hill Rd.)

Foster St. was more commercial than the other areas we visited. There was a great deal of signage for points of interest in Durham along the road, indicating that Durham is still working on marketing itself to its visitors. We also passed the site of the Durham farmer’s market, the YMCA, and the Marriott, implying that this road is an integral part of life in Durham, providing important centers for it’s inhabitants, and facilitating the influx of its visitors. The drive down this part of the street has a very good view of some of the most recognizable structures in Durham as well.