Are low-income residents disproportionately moving away from transit?

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, place - urban, land use - impacts, policy - equity


Public transit, low-income, intra-urban movers


Low-income residents are often reliant on public transit for daily travel. In North American cities, they have also historically concentrated in centrally located neighbourhoods with relatively higher levels of transit accessibility. However, during the late 20th and early 21st century, regions have witnessed trends of inner-city neighbourhood change and gentrification and the suburbanization of poverty, raising concerns that low-income residents are disproportionately moving away from relied upon transit service. In this paper, we investigate what occurs when low-income residents change dwellings within a region: do they experience a reduction in their levels of transit accessibility, how does this compare to higher-income movers, and how has this changed over time? We examine this by linking historical transit accessibility measures to annual individual-level panel data representing 20% of tax filers in Toronto, Canada from 1988 to 2018. We then analyze changes in transit accessibility for over 2 million intra-urban movers during this time period via descriptive statistics and regression models to answer whether there are significant differences in individual changes in transit accessibility by income level. We find that low-income residents do, on average, experience reductions in their levels of transit accessibility when moving within the region, suggesting a growth in people at risk of transport poverty. Nevertheless, they do not undergo as great of a reduction in transit accessibility as higher-income movers, although this gap in experienced changes in transit accessibility between higher- and low-income movers is converging over time.


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


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