Transit dependency’s Catch-22, or Why my rent’s so high

15 Jan

Waiting about 25 minutes for a train at Lindbergh when it was 20 degrees was decidedly un-fun. Walking down and back up the icy hill to Publix has been more excitement than I really require. I could have done without three days of having to choose between scooting along the edge of the street and gambling on the hazardously glazed sidewalks between my building and Civic Center Station as well.

But because I live and work close to rail stations, and I’m in good enough health to walk any distance I might need to, I can do those things. And because I can do those things being transit-dependent isn’t the sort of hardship for me that it is for many other people in the city.

From Thursday’s AJC:

“For many MARTA riders, its historic decision to shut down bus service completely this week might as well have shut down the food supply or access to the hospital.”

The people who most need reliable transit – in the form of rail service or well-connected, high-frequency bus service – are often the least able to afford to live close to it. The higher price of transit-accessible housing keeps the very people who need it most out of it.

“That’s the fundamental paradox: the people who are attracted to transit-rich neighborhoods – and have the money to pay more to live there – don’t use transit as much as less affluent people who can get priced out, ” said Tanya Snyder at Streetsblog DC back in October.

I don’t make much money, so what I’m paying seems like an awful lot for this standard-issue apartment with some ersatz fancy-nesses tacked on. And when the rent increases in April the cost will graduate from “high” to extortionate. But in exchange for that cost I’m buying the convenience of almost certainly always being able to travel to vital places.

Someone who makes much less than I do or someone who makes the same amount but has children or others to take care of doesn’t have that luxury. So thousands of people can’t work, can’t pick up their paychecks, can’t get to the hospital, or back home once they’re there. That’s what happens when you don’t have enough money for a car or enough money to live in a neighborhood where you don’t need one.

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