The effect of light rail transit on land-use development in a city without zoning

Richard Lee, Ipek N Sener


Light rail transit (LRT) has become a popular strategy to improve accessibility and mobility in the United States. It has also been touted as a tool to spur urban growth, higher-density development, and revitalization in large, auto-dependent cities like Houston, Texas. Although traditionally known as sprawling and highly auto-oriented, Houston has greatly expanded its light rail system in recent years. The city is also unique in that it is by far the largest city in the United States without zoning ordinances.
The city of Houston is used as a case study to examine land-use development around LRT stations. Analysis of parcel-level land-use data from 2005–2014 revealed a spike in commercial development along the original light rail corridor, approximately 4 to 10 years after its opening. Land-use development along the newer light rail corridors was more modest and not considerably different than the control corridors. Small changes in the levels of high-density residential housing and land-use mix near light rail stations indicated that efforts to encourage transit-oriented development have not yet had much effect.


Light rail transit (LRT), land use development, land use mix, Houston, Texas

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