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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.


  1. As I was looking at the map of the Atlanta railway system, it struck me that it was constructed in a slightly inefficient manner as it extended out in singular short branches. In many major cities such as Tokyo, London and Singapore, the main railway system consists of a loop which may increase the positive effects on the station on not just its immediate surroundings but the greater area that it encircles.

    I found the demographic effect of train stations was very interesting, however I wonder how positive or desirable this is in terms of ‘social engineering’; does it increase class segregation?

  2. Besides listening to your presentation in class, I also read your term paper assessing MARTAs effects on local neighborhood development. I thought it was fascinating that although the average incomes rose in these 12 communities, the renter-owner ratios remained steady. One of the questions I had for you was if you knew the average/median sizes of families in your spatial sample, which could be used to compare to the median sizes of suburban families. This information would provide a clearer representation of the rise in per capita income. Your paper had a very thorough statistical analysis- I wish you would have included more of your appendix tables in the presentation. I think the socio-spatial reorganization focus of your project is extremely compelling. I think it may be useful to describe the “diversity” of those 12 different station communities. How varied are they? Are some much more successful than others? Also, what are some of the other factors that could have contributed to income growth in those areas. Where do most of the “station locals” work, and is that aspect also race-specific? Since I have never been to Atlanta, I was wondering how economically attractive are those areas to private firms and other activities. Are those areas mainly middle class African Americans? I really enjoyed your presentation, and I feel like I learned a lot from it. I hope this topic receives more academic attention in the future. It deserves a profound analysis. Great Job!

  3. I thought this was a very interesting presentation, and was fascinated with what you mentioned in class — that homes around MARTA got “blacker” but also wealthier. Do you have any guesses as why this happened? I think it might also be helpful to talk about how home prices changed from pre-MARTA to post.

  4. What type of effect did MARTA have economically? Did the growth in the African American population around stations coincide with any significant change in the wealth of the area? Did this differ depending on the type of neighborhood or location of the station (i.e. close/far away from downtown)?

    -Ross Sylvester

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