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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Maryland: Kinesiology Researchers Show Light Rail Transit Contributes to Gentrification, Negative Health Impacts

Dr. Jennifer Roberts, assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, along with PhD candidates Ms. Shadi O. Tehrani and Ms. Shuling J. Wu, wrote a paper examining continued gentrification through light rail transit. 

The review paper, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, critically examines the health impacts of racial residential segregation and transit-induced gentrification. 

According to the manuscript, light rail transit — like subways or metros — stations are strategic targets for developers to build upscale housing, which results in increased population density, property values, and rent. Populations that can no longer afford to live in the area are then displaced, and are usually replaced by more affluent — and often White — residents. 

Populations displaced by gentrification typically have shorter life expectancy, higher cancer rates, and other health risks. The authors call this transit-induced gentrification a “socioeconomic by-product” of developing transit-oriented neighborhoods. 

But, because light rail transit provides a number of important economic and environmental benefits, the authors suggest it necessary for local government and city planners to adopt policies to thwart gentrification, like placing affordability restrictions or reserving low-priced land. 

Previous research by Dr. Roberts has focused on the relationship between the built environment and physical activity. She is currently studying the impact of the proposed Purple Line Light Rail in DC on neighborhood and health. 

Read full manuscript.

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