Date of Degree

2-2021

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Earth & Environmental Sciences

Advisor

Jonathan Peters

Advisor

Robert Paaswell

Committee Members

James Biles

Joe Grengs

Subject Categories

Physical and Environmental Geography | Regional Economics | Spatial Science | Transportation | Transportation Engineering | Urban Studies | Urban Studies and Planning

Keywords

accessibility, mobility, carshare, light rail, equity, transportation

Abstract

This dissertation explores the value of the car-share program and a new light rail system with respect to their impact on mobility and accessibility improvements in economically and transportation access-wise marginalized neighborhoods in NYC and its adjacent communities. It consists of three main essays that took deep dives into how each new service or system altered mobility or accessibility for those in need. The first essay (Chapter 2) investigates car-share vehicle utilization rates of the Zipcar across NYC. It assesses the utilization rates by vehicle type, service location, time period, and weekday usage compared to weekend activity. With a multivariate regression model, the study found the presence of previously unmet mobility needs in low-income neighborhoods and a positive impact of various pricing incentives to create a successful car-share program implementation. The result suggests that urban policymakers may want to consider different pricing incentives and subsidies to develop a potential public-private partnership car-share program in NYC focusing on mobility and accessibility instead of just the competitive marked incentives of a private operator. The second and third essays, presented here as Chapters 3 and 4 investigate the accessibility benefit of a new light rail system – the Hudson Bergen Light Rail (HBLR), that runs along the Hudson County Gold Coast waterfront in New Jersey.

Chapter 3 applies a hedonic approach, a traditional quantitative methodology for economic impact analysis, to measure the accessibility gain of a transit system deployed in a developed urban zone, in general. The study estimates the accessibility gain with longitudinal home sales records, capitalized in home values near the HBLR stations. The gain was generally higher in neighborhoods with less choice of public transportation options in a pre-HBLR period and also in ones far from a major regional job center, Manhattan. The study also identifies that the premium of the accessibility gain dissipated within a quarter-mile of the HBLR stations, which is smaller than the generally accepted allowable half-mile walking distance for users of rail service. Chapter 4 explored changes in commuting flows between the vicinity of the HBLR neighborhoods and Manhattan. The study utilizes two methods of analysis to understand these issues. First, it explores the change in jobs by wage groups and workplace locations for residents in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods near HBLR stations. Second, it develops a regression model to see the impact on residents' job change by proximity to the HBLR stations. The study hinted at how the new light rail system affected commuting patterns in the low-income neighborhoods, especially in areas with inferior public transportation access prior to the development of the HBLR.

Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 were published in peer-reviewed journals, and an earlier version of Chapter 4 was presented at the Transportation Research Board 91st annual meeting in Washington D.C. and the Association of American Geographers 2012 annual meeting in New York in 2012. As such, below the full abstracts for each of these papers were included as provided in their original presentation:

Abstract for Chapter 2 - For decades, car-sharing has become an attentive dialogue among transportation planners and civic groups who have long supported, and business owners and government officials who see car-sharing as a means to realize their interests, i.e., another market for revenue generation and replacement of government vehicles for municipal government use with car-share units. It has particularly drawn attention in New York City (NYC). NYC is the largest car-sharing market in the United States, accounting for about one-third of all North American car-sharing members. In addition to market-driven forces, the City government has pronounced pro-carsharing policies. However, car-sharing is still considered as an exclusive program to middle-income, white, and young populations. The purpose of this study is to see if car-sharing can help meet the mobility demand for urban residents, especially in marginalized neighborhoods. By investigating a leading car-sharing program – Zipcar's vehicle utilization pattern in NYC, I attempt to disentangle how areas with different socio-demographics are associated with car-sharing usage. The study results revealed a high demand for midsize (standard) vehicles on weekdays and weeknights. Besides, car-sharing use was positively correlated with the number of total vehicles, not the number of Zipcar parking lots, if the cars are accessible within walking distances. More importantly, car-sharing in low-income neighborhoods did not differ from the typical car-sharing locations. What matters is affordability. Hence, there is no reason not to consider new services or expanding existing service boundaries to the outer boroughs in the future.

Abstract for Chapter 3 - This paper analyses the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail (HBLR) impact on residential property prices. Unlike similar studies that use a hedonic model with cross-sectional data, this one uses repeat-sales data of properties sold at least twice between 1991 and 2009. It shows how proximity to the nearest HBLR station, relative accessibility gains across stations, and anticipation of the commencement date of the HBLR station influenced home price change. The results show that properties near the two commuting stations farthest from the revitalized central business district experienced high appreciation. The study also reveals different accessibility gains across areas based on the availability of existing public transportation options. Using a negative–exponential gradient, we find that these higher appreciation rates tended to dissipate about 1/4 mile (402 m) from stations. It supports that properties around urban commuting stations enjoy higher marginal benefits through improved transit accessibility and reduced transportation costs, as Alonso's model predicts.

Abstract for Chapter 4 - This study examines if the HBLR has affected commuting flows in economically disadvantaged Environment Justice (EJ) neighborhoods. It hypothesized that the low-income and working-age population in the northern and southern neighborhoods of Hudson County, New Jersey, had taken advantage of the new light rail access. Thanks to Hudson county's unique geographic location, where Manhattan, the most prominent employment center in the region, is located across the Hudson River, the most significant accessibility benefit of the new transit service would be the improvement of Manhattan-bound job commute. This study's key data source is the U.S. Census Bureau's time-series Longitudinal Employer‐Household Dynamics Origin-Destination Employment Statistics (LODES). The investigation disclosed that residents in EJ neighborhoods enjoyed more job opportunities in Manhattan thanks to the enhanced, reliable transit accessibility. Moreover, the HBLR influenced neighborhoods differently in which different levels of public transportation accessibility existed before the inauguration of the HBLR. The study demonstrated that the benefits of the HBLR are not limited to a typical property appreciation but the provision of enhanced employment opportunities to residents in EJ neighborhoods.

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