The spatial and gentrifying effects of traffic congestion
Nicholson, Joseph Randolph
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Urban economic theory suggests that rising levels of traffic congestion will lead to smaller, more compact cities with residents living closer to the central business district (CBD). If the value of time lost commuting increases with income then high-income households should experience a stronger pull to the CBD than low-income households. These essays use data on traffic congestion in U.S. cities between 1980 and 2000 to test whether the extent to which high-income households’ location within the central cities of U.S. metropolitan areas was affected by traffic congestion levels. Then test the extent to which high-income households are moving into gentrifiable neighborhoods as they disburse throughout the city center due to increases in traffic congestion levels. Independent metropolitan level measures of traffic congestion find statistical significance with respect to the location of high-income households with this effect increasing with median household income. With respect to gentrification, the findings demonstrate that traffic congestion is significant with respect to income gains in both central cities overall and the gentrifiable neighborhoods within central cities, but that the gentrifiable neighborhoods of these central cities experience 26% greater income gains with respect to all central city neighborhoods given the same levels of traffic congestion.