Advancing Equitable Transit Oriented Development in Massachusetts: A Framework and Lessons from Four Gateway Cities
Transit-oriented development (TOD) in Massachusetts’ Gateway Cities offers a chance for the Commonwealth to channel projected population growth into strategic locations—a multi-pronged solution that helps meet climate goals and chart a more sustainable future. At the same time, indicators of equity reveal that residents of today’s Gateway City station areas are already facing an affordable housing and opportunity crisis. Many are burdened by rents high enough to prevent asset building, but too low to encourage development for the cities outside the high-priced Boston market. Bringing transit-oriented development into these communities risks exacerbating low-income households’ tenuous financial and housing situations. Without an explicit and intentional strategy to achieve equitable outcomes, TOD may not benefit low-income residents and could even exacerbate inequalities. Using interviews, data analysis, and a survey of municipal planning documents related to housing, business, and workforce development from four of the thirteen Gateway Cities with commuter rail access (Fitchburg, Lawrence, Salem, and Lynn), this client-based thesis proposes an equitable development plan framework for Gateway City station areas, as well as recommendations for supportive state actions.