Date of Graduation

Winter 12-11-2020

Document Access

Project/Capstone - Global access

Degree Name

Master of Science in Environmental Management (MSEM)


College of Arts and Sciences


Environmental Management

First Advisor

Tracy Benning, PhD


Sustainable transportation, as it relates to sustainable development, aims to achieve economic stability, social equity, and environmental preservation via transit projects. However, gentrification processes and transit-oriented developments or TODs have attracted more households inward toward reinvested transit-centric areas. The San Francisco Bay Area, California has continued to see positive economic growth, with that, higher-income households inhabiting more centralized locations. Native low-income residents have started to feel displacement pressures on both a social and economic scale. Over time, displacement risk inevitably leads to residential displacement where low-income families are forced to relocate to distant, more affordable neighborhoods. As more distance separates low-income residents from the region’s epicenter, transportation options grow increasingly scarce and the Bay Area transit network begins to cater to a smaller subset of people than what the service originally intended. Thus, potentially becoming more of a social equity phenomenon.

The primary objective of this project was to determine if the Bay Area rail system is a sustainable network or indicative of a social equity phenomenon. Using GIS, railway station stops were spatially analyzed to represent transit accessibility points within each of the 9 Bay Area counties. Demographic data including median household income, race, age range, sex, educational attainment, and transit mode preference were integrated to determine if the rail system satisfies the accessibility criteria of sustainable transportation and to construct a general profile of an individual that resides within 1-mile of a railway station stop. Displacement risk was analyzed to determine if residents living within the service area were susceptible to displacement and whether there is a noticeable disparity between the profile of a service area inhabitant and a displaced individual. Results indicated that the Bay Area railway station network does not satisfy the accessibility criteria of sustainable development, as generic profiles constructed for an individual living within the defined service area for all 9 counties exhibited similar characteristics - well paid, middle-aged white individuals that preferred to drive to work, had obtained a bachelor’s degree or equivalent. Alternatively, displaced individuals generally were low-income minority populations that either do not have access to a car or prioritize public transportation for the lower cost. Displacement risk across the region ranges from a low of 0% in North Bay counties to a high of 54% in San Francisco county.