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From Transactional to Transformative: The Case for Equity in gateway City Transit-Oriented Development

by Ben Forman; Catherine Tumber, PhD; Elizabeth Haney; Tracey A. Corley, PhD

May 1, 2020

We as a society have made choices that have led to deep inequities. Whether intentional or not, these inequities divide places, races, classes, and cultures across the Commonwealth. To bridge these divisions, policymakers, leaders, and practitioners must reframe decisions and actions with equity as an intentional outcome and part of the process. We write this paper to present a framework of how transit-oriented development (TOD) can help cities, specifically Gateway Cities, embed equity into market-based and other policy tools and practices, thereby transforming their regions through equitable growth and development.


This report expands on our 2018 recommendations and lays the groundwork for a series of future policy briefs that will explore the issues covered here in more depth. We call for infusing equity into TOD policies and practices for four specific reasons:



  • Over the past 50 years, demographic change has divided people and communities socially and economically in Gateway City metropolitan regions.

  • Gentrification fears have surged in Gateway Cities' weak real estate markets, where increasing property values threaten to destabilize households and neighborhoods, strip cities of their cultural vibrancy, and put vulnerable residents at risk of displacement and homelessness.

  • Local and nationwide histories of socioeconomic exclusion—particularly along racial and cultural lines—persist today. These histories have exacerbated wealth gaps and income inequality and require both acknowledgement and correction.

  • Finally, a false policy dichotomy that supports either large "urban" or small "nonurban" communities ignores the vital role Gateway Cities play as regional hubs for surrounding towns and cities, thus deepening geographic disparities across the Commonwealth.