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The Exposition Light Rail Line Study

“Before-After” Opening Travel Impacts and New Resident Sample Preliminary Analysis

Marlon G. Boarnet, Doug Houston, and Steven Spears

December 2013, English

Transit has become central to the Los Angeles region’s plans for air quality attainment, greenhouse gas emission reduction, community quality of life, and the promotion of increased physical activity. However, limited information exists about how rail transit investments reduce driving, increase transit use and non-motorized travel, and how transit investment links to environmental sustainability and community quality of life goals. In order to better understand the impact of this transportation policy shift, the University of California, Irvine and University of Southern California undertook a multi-year, multiple objective study of the Exposition light rail line west of downtown Los Angeles. Approximately six months before and after the opening of the line, we collected a comprehensive set of demographic and travel data from 204 households. Approximately half of these were in “experimental” neighborhoods located ½ mile or less from new Expo Line Stations. The remaining “control” households were located from ½ to 3 miles from these stations. In addition, we obtained data from 89 households that had moved into the Expo Line study area since January of 2012, for comparison with our “core” sample of established residents and to understanding the factors that affected residential selection.

Our analysis indicates that the Expo Line has had a significant impact on the travel of our core sample households. In particular, households in our experimental neighborhoods, which lie within ½ mile of an Expo Line station, reduced their daily household vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by approximately 10 miles per day compared to control households that were more than ½ mile from a station. Households in the experimental neighborhoods also took significantly more train and walking trips than they did before the opening of the line. However, this change in the number of daily walking and train trips was not significantly different from that of the control households.

New resident households had the highest VMT of any of our study groups. VMT of new resident households in our experimental neighborhoods was 11 miles per day higher than that of core households. This difference was statistically significant. There was no difference in VMT between new resident households within ½ mile of Expo stations and those further away. New residents tended to be considerably younger than those in our core sample of established households and were more likely to rent their residence. Low housing cost, low crime, and housing quality were most important reasons cited in residential choice, followed by commute time and access to shops and services. Overall, new residents indicated that car accessibility was the most important travel mode consideration in their household location decision. However, more than 60% indicated that being able to walk to shops and services was an important factor in their decision.