Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: Transit Systems and Their Effect on Crime in Communities

Saturday, November 14, 2015 : 8:50 AM
Johnson I (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Greg Ridgeway and John MacDonald, University of Pennsylvania
The expansion of public transit has been justified as a basis for reducing traffic congestion, improving economic development, and reducing the spatial mismatch between employment opportunities and low income household locations.  Neighborhoods often resist public transit expansion for fears that it will increase crime by attracting transient populations more prone to engage in crime.  On the other hand, transit may reduce crime by altering economic development and other positive features of neighborhoods.  A number of studies have examined the relationship between transit and crime.  Prior research is largely based on cross sectional studies.  Quasi-experimental studies are relatively rare and typically examine the effect of public transit expansion on a limited number of locations.   We improve on previous research by examining the effect that the introduction of the Los Angeles Metro rail system had on crime in neighborhoods.  Using data on crimes reported to the Los Angeles Police Department from 1988 to 2010 we estimate a difference-in-differences model of the change in crime in the neighborhoods surrounding stations as the opening of new stations rolled out over a span of more than 20 years compared to neighborhoods not exposed to new transit stations.  We also capitalize on the fact that during this period Los Angeles experienced one of the nation’s longest transit strikes in 2000 that lasted 32 days. This interruption provides a second natural experiment that we use to test for the effect of transit on crime neighborhoods. We discuss the policy implications of these results.