Year of Publication

2017

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Business and Economics

Department

Economics

First Advisor

Dr. Christopher Bollinger

Abstract

This paper uses annual, tract-level data to estimate the economic impact of the Seattle area’s newly operational light rail system and recently implemented toll on a bridge traversing Lake Washington, the large lake immediately east of Seattle that bisects the region. Two modeling approaches are utilized in the estimation of each transit intervention’s economic impact: the primary model allows the transit intervention to affect the designated impact area prior to the system’s operation, under the assumption that individuals will respond to the knowledge of the change and relocate accordingly. The secondary model accounts for an impact from the intervention upon its operation. Zoning designations are incorporated into the measurement of a tract’s proximity to the transit interventions to control for the possibility of the expansion of a residential or commercial presence. The economic impact from the light rail and toll are modeled both individually and in a combined model.

The impact of the light rail is measured within a ¼ mile of stations. Two station types are controlled for within the estimation of the light rail system’s economic impact: retrofit stations previously existed as bus stations that were fit with light rail infrastructure, while new stations were built specifically for the light rail. Both station types are associated with increases in population density and housing density, and decreases in employment density, while the prevalence of public sector employment has decreased around new stations. The two station types differently attract residents based on age. A majority of the increases in population and housing density surrounding stations occurred prior to the system’s operation, whereas a majority of the decrease in employment density surrounding stations occurred during the system’s first year of operation.

Narrow and broad definitions of bridge proximity are utilized in estimating the toll’s impact. The toll is associated with small increases in population density and employment density using both definitions of bridge proximity. Within the narrow definition of bridge proximity, a majority of the increase in population density occurred prior to the toll’s operation, whereas a majority of the increase in employment density occurred during the toll’s first year of operation. Within the broad definition of bridge proximity, a majority of the increases in population and employment density occurred once the toll was operational. Neither transit intervention has affected the prevalence of African Americans within the designated transit impact areas.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

https://doi.org/10.13023/ETD.2017.405

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