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Twenty years of the Bay Area Rapid Transit system: Land use and development impacts


  • Cervero, Robert
  • Landis, John


Planners of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system, the first large-scale urban rail project built in the U.S. since the early part of this century, hoped BART would encourage compact and orderly growth, and spawn a multi-centered settlement pattern. The initial BART impact study, conducted a few years following the system's 1973 opening, concluded that BART played a fairly modest, though not inconsequential, role in shaping metropolitan growth and land-use patterns. This paper summarizes findings from an update of the original BART impact study, examining BART's influences on urban development patterns 20 years after services started. In general, our findings are similar to those of the original impact study. Over the past 20 years, land-use changes associated with BART have been largely localized, limited to downtown San Francisco and Oakland and a handful of suburban stations. Elsewhere, few land-use changes have occurred, either because of neighborhood opposition or a lackluster local real estate market. While BART appears to have helped bring about a more multi-centered regional settlement pattern, such as inducing midrise office development near the Walnut Creek and Concord stations, it has done little to stem the tide of freeway-oriented suburban employment growth over the past two decades. Indeed, recent office additions near East Bay stations pale in comparison to the amount of floorspace built in non-BART freeway corridors. Near several suburban stations, the most notable change has been the addition of multi-family housing. In most instances, local redevelopment authorities helped leverage these projects by providing various financial incentives and assistance with land assemblege. Statistical analyses reveal that the availability of vacant and developable land is an important predictor of whether land-use changes occurred near stations. BART, in and of itself, has clearly not been able to induce large-scale land-use changes, though under the right circumstances, it appears to have been an important contributor. If the Bay Area is to achieve the compact, multi-centered built form that was originally envisaged, we conclude that stronger public policy initiatives will be needed to channel future regional growth to BART corridors.

Suggested Citation

  • Cervero, Robert & Landis, John, 1997. "Twenty years of the Bay Area Rapid Transit system: Land use and development impacts," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 309-333, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:transa:v:31:y:1997:i:4:p:309-333

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Cervero, Robert & Menotti, Val, 1994. "Market Profiles of Rail-Based Housing Projects in California," University of California Transportation Center, Working Papers qt89k664kz, University of California Transportation Center.
    2. Cervero, Robert, 1993. "Ridership Impacts of Transit-Focused Development in California," University of California Transportation Center, Working Papers qt8sr9d86r, University of California Transportation Center.
    3. Cervero, Robert, 1996. "Subcentering and Commuting: Evidence from the San Francisco Bay Area, 1980-1990," University of California Transportation Center, Working Papers qt7b5919b1, University of California Transportation Center.
    4. Landis, John & Guhathakurta, Subhrajit & Huang, William & Zhang, Ming, 1995. "Rail Transit Investments, Real Estate Values, and Land Use Change: A Comparative Analysis of Five California Rail Transit Systems," University of California Transportation Center, Working Papers qt2hf9s9sr, University of California Transportation Center.
    5. Merewitz, Leonard, 1972. "Public Transportation: Wish Fulfillment and Reality in the San Francisco Bay Area," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(2), pages 78-86, May.
    6. Cervero, Robert & Round, Alfred & Goldman, Todd & Wu, Kang-Li, 1995. "Rail Access Modes and Catchment Areas for the BART System," University of California Transportation Center, Working Papers qt07k76097, University of California Transportation Center.
    7. Richard Voith, 1991. "Transportation, Sorting and House Values," Real Estate Economics, American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association, vol. 19(2), pages 117-137.
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