Light rail transit and economic recovery: A case of resilience or transformation?

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - tram/light rail, place - north america, place - urban, land use - impacts, economics


Resilience, Transit and resiliency, Economic transformation, Transit and economic transformation, Transit and economic development


The ecological concept of “resilience” has been applied to social and economic systems in researchers’ attempts to understand the extent to which those systems recover after calamity. Resilience strictly speaking can mean little more than carrying on as usual after a period of recovery. It can also mean learning from calamity so that while most functions resume, systems are prepared for the next, similar calamity. But transformation can also occur whereby systems are restructured, abandoning the most vulnerable pre-calamity elements while redirecting resources to new elements better able to withstand known and unknown future calamities. We apply the concepts of resilience and transformation to the seven light rail transit (LRT) systems operating in the U.S. before, during and after the Great Recession. Using shift-share analysis across groups of economic sectors, we trace the share and shift in the share of jobs in those sectors during each of the three time periods. We find that economic activity within 0.50-mile of LRT stations was more resilient during the Great Recession than their metropolitan areas as a whole, and those economies appear to have been transformed such that jobs were shifting substantially more to LRT corridors in the post-recession period than before.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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