USC Professor Manuel Pastor, a featured speaker at Move LA's 7th annual Transportation Conversation on April 22, believes Los Angeles is being reinvented – moving away from sprawl and toward compact development, from car dependence to transit orientation, from fragmentation to a cross-sector interest in inclusion — and that the build-out of the transit system is a sweet spot in this transformation. We couldn’t agree more.
Professor Pastor has distinguished himself in so many ways: as director of USC’s Program for Environmental and Regional Equity and co-director of USC’s Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration, as a prodigious author and recipient of many honors, fellowships and grants, and as a steadfast crusader for social and economic justice.
But his message about “just growth” — from the book Just Growth: Inclusion and Prosperity in America’s Metropolitan Regions (co-authored with Chris Benner) — is particularly compelling from Move LA’s point of view because it seems so relevant to the conversation about transit expansion and its impact on lower-income neighborhoods.
Transit expansion can disrupt communities. Construction imposes hardships on local businesses, and rail transit can stimulate the real estate market, attracting development and boosting property values, and in some cases pushing local businesses and lower-income people out.
But Manuel Pastor urges us to find the sweet spot, arguing that economic expansion — like the kind brought on by transit expansion — is essential to “just growth,” that we haven’t made gains in equity in stagnant economies because when the economy doesn’t work then people don’t work either. Moreover, poor people are the most dependent on economic growth and most in need of the jobs that economic expansion creates.
The flip side of that argument is that economic expansion isn’t enough either, we need a compelling growth agenda as well as a commitment to fairness. In the case of transit expansion this could equate to project labor agreements, construction careers programs, a mitigation fund for local businesses, the creation of opportunities for local businesses to re-locate into new development that is built, enforcement of rent control laws, relocation assistance for families who are displaced, and new apartments with affordable rents.
It is this approach to economic growth and to fairness that will allow all of us to benefit — because we do need each other, of course.
In Los Angeles we all benefit when lower-income people to live near transit because that helps ensure high ridership. Higher-income households that live near transit tend to have more cars and to use them, bringing ridership down and increasing traffic. We all need the jobs to help rev-up the economy, we all benefit from cleaner air and lower carbon emissions, and we all need more choices for how we get around.
We especially agree with Professor Pastor that LA is being reinvented and that transportation investments are playing a key role in LA's transformation — this is indeed the just growth sweet spot.
Link to an excerpt of Chris Benner and Manuel Pastor’s book, Just Growth:
Link to USC PERE’s Transportation Equity report:
Link to LA Thrives blog post Making the Most of Transit: Mobility, Growth, and Justice by Manuel Pastor and Madeline Wander: http://www.lathrives.org/making_the_most_of_transit_mobility_growth_and_justice