California Voting and Suburbanization Patterns: Implications for Transit Policy

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California Voting and Suburbanization Patterns: Implications for Transit Policy


Public transit is an environmentally friendly transportation mode that usually focuses on transporting people within and to the city center. However, over the last 60 years, population and employment has been suburbanizing. As the median voter lives further from the city center, and thus enjoys fewer benefits from accessing public transit, does this reduce such a voter’s propensity to support public investment in public transit improvements? We analyze voting patterns on 20 transit-related ballot propositions from state-wide elections in California between 1990 and 2010. Controlling for demographic, socio-economic and political ideological factors, we focus on the role of suburbanization as a possible causal factor in determining public support for public transit investment. The results provide a rich picture of the attitudes towards transportation policy among California voters, and will help policy makers to better understand citizen preferences and to better predict how future trends will shift support towards or against transit. Finally, we suggest ways policy makers can use urban land markets to increase support for transit.



Matthew J. Holian is an Associate Professor at San Jose State University in the Economics Department and a research associate at the Mineta Transportation Institute. He completed his PhD in Economics in 2008 at the Ohio State University. His scholarly publications have appeared in journals such as Journal of Housing Economics and Public Choice. His research focuses on industrial, public, transportation and urban economics.


Matthew E. Kahn is a Professor at the UCLA Institute of the Environment, the Department of Economics, and the Department of Public Policy. He is a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and Mineta Transportation Institute. Before joining the UCLA faculty in January 2007, he taught at Columbia and the Fletcher School at Tufts University. He has served as a Visiting Professor at Harvard and Stanford. He holds a PhD in Economics from the University of Chicago. He is the author of Green Cities: Urban Growth and the Environment (Brookings Institution Press, 2006) and the co-author of Heroes and Cowards: The Social Face of War (Princeton University Press, 2009). In September 2010, Basic Books published his book titled Climatopolis. His research focuses on environmental, urban, real estate, and energy economics.

July 2013
Public transit
Political factors
Land use



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