Reconnecting America People * Places * Possibility

How Do We Fulfill the Promise of Public Transit in Los Angeles?

Reconnecting America Releases the Los Angeles Equity Atlas

With a $40 billion voter-approved transit investment being deployed over the next 20 years, Los Angeles County residents are charting a path to a new future. The transit system expansion will add 102 miles of rail transit and almost 100 new stations, while creating 400,000 new jobs.[1] While the City of Los Angeles is ground zero for much of this change - at the core of the transit network and with 113 current and planned stations - 63 other jurisdictions across the County will also enjoy frequent transit, making the scale of change as record-breaking as the pace of change.

This investment will embrace the cultural and racial diversity that makes Los Angeles one of the most dynamic and entrepreneurial places in the world, but should also acknowledge that the majority of the people who contribute to that dynamism are predominantly low and moderate income.

The Los Angeles Equity Atlas - released today in a partnership between the California Community Foundation and Reconnecting America - illuminates these issues and opportunities through data and maps, offering a one-stop-shop for understanding the many dimensions of equity and transit across the county. The atlas was developed through a series of convenings with experts from public health, planning, community development, transit, environmental advocacy, business and philanthropy. The atlas pulls together existing research with original analysis across four themes:

  • Increasing Mobility, Access and Connectivity: Increasing mobility and access choices for transit-reliant residents by making supporting investments in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.
  • Preserving and Creating Affordable Housing, and Managing Neighborhood Change: Prevention of displacement of low-income resident from well-connected transit communities and production of housing at all income levels to increase the supply, ensuring that 40% of new development is affordable to extremely low, very low and low-income households.
  • Supporting Economic and Workforce Development: Increasing economic opportunities for low income, less-skilled workers by removing transportation barriers to training and educational opportunities, and increasing access to moderate wage, quality jobs.
  • Investing in Healthy Communities: Increasing opportunity and reducing disparities in underserved neighborhoods near transit, including access to fresh food, health care, open space and parks, cleaner air, transportation safety and freedom from crime and violence.

Within each of these themes, the atlas sets the stage for benchmarking performance near transit, while offering maps and quick talking points from which a range of audiences can draw. For example (original analysis is in italics, sources for other data are cited in the Atlas document): 

Increasing Mobility, Access and Connectivity

  • Today, workers earning less than $25,000 a year make up 71% of the commute to work trips on the existing transit system. Core riders cannot be a casualty of new investment and the growing desirability of well-connected urban neighborhoods, or the system may not sustain its successful ridership performance.
  • 1.18 million people live within a half-mile of the frequent transit system, but 7.8 million people (nearly 80% of county residents) live within 3 miles of the system, suggesting a need for supportive investment in biking infrastructure and bus service.
  • This is not a system to which people drive: 85% of current transit riders walk, bike, or use wheelchairs to get to transit.

Preserving and Creating Affordable Housing, and Managing Neighborhood Change

  • The general population density to support transit with enough riders is about 14 people per acre. About 5.9 million residents in the county, or 60%, live in places with census tracts of this density or greater.
  • Housing near existing and planned transit grew at a faster clip from 2000 to 2010 than the region as a whole.  Units increased 2.7% across Los Angeles County.  Near future and existing frequent transit the number of units grew 6%.  Units near transit represented 35.5% of all units in 2000 while in 2010 they represented 36.7%.   Overall, 78.9% of all unit growth was near frequent existing and future transit.1
  • To date, an estimated 40% of housing units produced on LACMTA property through joint development have been affordable.2 However most of these have been in cities that provided the needed subsidies to make the projects work, and where affordable housing near transit is encouraged. Another 63 local jurisdictions in the County have frequent transit and many lack strong support for affordable housing.
  • Households living near transit are more than twice as likely to walk, bike or take transit to work as those living away from transit (21% vs. 9%). This is true among low-income workers as well (31% vs. 16%), suggesting everyone benefits from living near transit.

Supporting Workforce and Economic Development

  • 47% of jobs are near frequent transit, which includes bus and rail operating every 15 minutes or better.  
  • Low-income workers have both shorter and longer commutes than average workers, due to lower rates of driving. Those who bike and walk to work have shorter commutes, and those who take transit have longer commutes.

Investing in Healthy Communities

  • Youth under age 16 make up 39% of bicycling trips and 17% of walking trips despite only making up 21% of the population.
  • In 2005, nearly 20% of County residents reported having a disability. 17% reported transportation as a barrier to receiving needed health care, vs. 5% of residents without a disability.
  • Seniors account for 10% of walking trips but 19% of the fatalities.  They make up 6% of bicycle trips but 10% of the fatalities, meaning they are at greater risk than other age groups.
  • One Southern California study found that children living within a quarter mile from a freeway had an 89% higher risk of asthma than children living a mile from a freeway.  64 existing and planned rail and BRT stations are within a quarter mile of a freeway
  • 64% of public health care facilities (where uninsured residents could go for care) are located near the frequent transit network. 55% of all health care jobs are near the frequent transit network.
  • Children living within walking distance of parks are 6 times more likely to use park facilities.2
  • There are 27 acres of park per 1,000 residents in California, and 24 acres per 1,000 residents in Southern California. There are only 4.6 acres per 1,000 residents within walking distance of transit in Los Angeles County.

The LA Equity Atlas document and maps can be found here.


    [1] Measure R, 2 August 2011, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority. 1 May 2013