Yonah Freemark | CityLab

Residents of Somerville, Massachusetts, are beginning to fear that the Green Line extension may also produce gentrification and displacement.
Locals do have reason to worry, as Cities reported earlier this week, but there’s also reason to be optimistic about the future. The planned light rail line will provide a major transit upgrade over the patchwork of slow buses that serve most of the city. With high densities and low car use, Somerville is the perfect place for new mass transit; no wonder advocates have been pushing for the project for years.

Many cities around the United States are trapped in the same dilemma between a desire for transit growth and a fear of rising rents. It’s true that one often leads to the other. A 2010 report found that between 1990 and 2000, rent increased more quickly in transit areas across the country than in the surrounding metropolitan areas. The change doesn’t always take long: another study, examining the effects of the construction of Chicago’s Midway Orange Line in 2004, concluded that property values along the line increased even in advance of opening.

But are rising housing prices as a result of mass transit development necessarily a bad thing? The real story is more nuanced. Read more