Social Relationships and Changing Infrastructure

  • Project status: Completed
  • Funded by: John Randolph and Dora Haynes Foundation Faculty Fellowship

A Pretest of Effects on Neighborhood Life

The lack of well-developed public transportation system has long been heralded as one of the reasons for the traffic congestion throughout Los Angeles County. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Authority is constructing a new Expo line that will run from Downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica to help alleviate these problems. Phase 2 of this line will run from Culver City, through the neighborhoods of Cheviot Hills and Rancho Park. The construction of this rail line occurs under the backdrop of a Caltrans initiative to create Complete Streets which “can help revitalize communities, and they can give families the option to lower transportation costs by using transit, walking or bicycling rather than driving to reach their destinations” (California Department of Transportation, 2012). Despite the proposed benefits, the neighborhood residents raised concerns about this expansion, including possible negative effects through increasing crime and noise, difficulty getting to and from the freeway, and increased traffic in the area (Smartrail, 2011). Further, neighborly relationships may be affected through the changing physical infrastructure in the area such that levels of social capital that currently exist may be eroded (Grannis, 1998).


This study will lay the groundwork for a multi-year study to examine how the introduction of the Expo line affects current neighborhood conditions and suggest ways for making the streets “Living Streets” designed to support the multiple purposes of residents and non-residents alike. The specific aims of are:

  1. Describe how residents use local neighborhood assets and social support from neighbors;
  2. Describe the current noise level of the area, specifically near Overland Elementary and homes; and
  3. Examine the walkability of the neighborhood, particularly around the proposed station, for all residents using the (Pedestrian Environmental Quality Index, PEQI).


This study will be a pretest of the neighborhood conditions in the Cheviot Hills/Rancho Park area before the Expo Line expands into this area. A convenience sample of 200 neighborhood residents will be obtained by conducting door-to-door surveys. The goal is to have 100 neighborhood residents who will live north of the proposed line and 100 who live south of the proposed line. Research assistants will collect data from residents on demographics, types of social support from neighbors, locations of where residents conduct daily activities (e.g., grocery stores), and specific uses of neighborhood resources. Research assistants will also collect data on walkability using the PEQI, which includes information on the number of lanes of traffic, intersection safety and on current noise levels. Crime data for the city of Los Angeles are being collected for another study (by this PI) and will be utilized here.


The data collected will be a pretest of how neighborhood conditions change with the introduction of this new public transportation system to the neighborhood. Posttest data collection efforts will then provide information on how these conditions have changed as a result of this transportation intervention.


California Department of Transportation. (2012). Complete Streets Program. Retrieved from

Grannis, R. (1998) The importance of trivial streets. The American Journal of Sociology, 103, 1530-1564. Smartrail. (2011).

Neighbors For Smart Rail (NFSR). Retrieved from


Final Report: