April 7, 2011

7 Keys to Understanding Mass Transit Impact – and Value

Posted in role of government, taxes, U.S. Economy, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 9:32 am by realitytax

DC Streetcar study1) It’s not just bus and light-rail

Streetcars play an increasing role, as the DC Streetcar Land-Use Study documents, and for good reason. The upfront costs are lower than light-rail, while businesses (and commercial real estate values) react much more vigorously than they do to bus rapid transit (BRT) proposals.

2) Return on Investment is Reliable, Investors React

In terms of taxpayers dollars, the Goody Clancy DC study found “streetcar offers a better ratio of benefits to costs compared to Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) or Light Transit. While BRT is less expensive to implement, it does not generate the real estate investments to the same degree that streetcars can.” In other words, with a lower implementation cost than light rail that stability and predictability is what businesses and property owners like. Long-term, they know the traffic patterns and support for use are reliable.

3) Urban Rail Transportation Stimulates Economic Development

With so many elected officials trying to create jobs and reverse shrinkage of tax revenues, studies on the light rail projects in Minneapolis, Portland, and Denver reveal more benefits than just the immediate job creation from the construction projects, there’s lots of other new real estate development, too, including especially housing when the lines are well-sited.

4) Transit Is Not an “either/or” Choice

Some state legislatures are leery of the investment as they look at funding for the repair and maintenance of existing roads, highways, and bridges. Yet a new (or better) Transit system reduces wear, freeing up more money and reducing infrastructure maintenance costs in transportation budgets.

5) If Highways Are the Answer We’d All Move to L.A.

I don’t want to decry development in Southern California, but the smog and traffic jams are legendary. Most developed areas don’t have the land to give up for more highways, toll-roads are far from a free solution even though they shift the maintenance costs, and most communities favor fewer big roads as the cost to our environment and impact on our quality of life becomes more evident.

3) It’s Efficient

Max busIt’s a simple fact, person-throughput is increased when a greater share of travelers in any given transportation corridor are riding rather than driving. Risks shrink, quality of life blossoms, and systems that mitigate commuter congestion coincidentally result in revitalized commercial and retail growth – again, because business investors recognize and gravitate to the predictable. While there are pitfalls to be avoided, there are numerous studies that show what’s working and what hasn’t; the data is real, so re-inventing the wheel isn’t the first step.

7) If You Build It, They Will Come

When you consider areas such as the Pearl district of Portland it’s obvious why that city is always high on lists of desirable places to live; urban development was phenomenal, and some estimates suggest streetcar ridership is 7 times higher than a bus alternative would be. Either way, it spurred billions of dollars in development projects, which translates into jobs and other tax revenues for the city – and isn’t that what every state or local government needs?

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