Transit Action Network (TAN)

Advocates for Improved and Expanded Transit in the Kansas City Region.

Posts Tagged ‘Streetcar’

Sense or Nonsense? Streetcars and Increased Property Values

Posted by Transit Action Network on July 29, 2014

There is a lot of talk about the streetcar increasing property values. The following information attempts to shed light on this issue. Answers have been gleaned from the sources indicated below.

This article will be updated periodically as we become aware of additional information and the series will be available on the website under the tab “Special Topics” – Sense or Nonsense?

Does rail increase property values?


Generally, streetcars and light rail increase property values for 1/4 to 1/2 mile around stops. The greatest beneficiaries are residential properties and properties that are rezoned to higher use (for example from “light industrial” to “multi-story office”). The extent of increase is dependent on many extraneous factors as well. Likewise, because rail is just one of the factors that affect property values, other areas of a city may see greater appreciation than those served by rail.The extent of increase is dependent on many extraneous factors as well. Likewise, because rail is just one of the factors that affect property values, other areas of a city may see greater appreciation than those served by rail. There is some evidence that the extent of value appreciation is tied to savings from reduction in transit time of the rail mode compared with alternative modes. Rail typically decreases property values along the right-of-way between stops, but to a small extent. Streetcars may have stops sufficiently close together so that every property is located near a stop.



Streetcar Study:

1. System(s) studied: Streetcars in Tampa, Seattle and Portland

Summary of findings: Vacant and underdeveloped land just beyond walking distance to the city center offers the most potential for appreciation. However, much depends on local conditions. The increase in average property values along the Tampa streetcar, although large, was less than increases in the county as a whole. A large component of property appreciation is the effect of rezoning to higher use. In the case of Seattle and Portland increases in value were affected by major development projects in each city. In Portland this included large infrastructure investments including streets, sewers and utilities, along with a streetcar, and rezoning of an abandoned rail yard. In Seattle it was affected by the rezoning of six blocks of light industrial properties to multi-story office and the commitment of Amazon to build eleven office buildings on the site.Portland illustration hope-2

Institution: Center for Transit Oriented Development, Reconnecting America


Title: “Value Capture and Tax-Increment Financing Options for Streetcar Construction”

Authors: Not given, Date: circa 2009

Light Rail Studies:

Listed in chronological order of publication -newest studies first

2. System(s) studied: Hudson – Bergen light rail (New Jersey)

Summary of findings: This was a longitudinal study looking at resale values over a seventeen-year period. Properties near stations had high property value appreciation. Properties along the line away from stations experienced lower than average appreciation.

Institution: Transportation Research Board

Contact: Transportation Research Board, 500 Fifth Street NW, Washington, DC 20001

Title: “The Impact of Hudson-Bergen Light Rail on Residential Property Values”

Authors: Kyeongsu Kim and Michael L. Lahr, Date: 2011

3. System(s) studied: River Line (rail using DMU’s in New Jersey)

Summary of findings: Line is highly successful with ridership near capacity. Nevertheless the impact on property values is neutral to slightly negative with residences in low-income census tracks near stations appreciating while more distant properties showing no or negative changes.

Institution: University of California


Title: “Evaluating the Economic Impacts of Light Rail by Measuring Home Appreciation: A First Look at New Jersey’s River Line”

Authors: Daniel G. Chapman, Nicholas K. Tulach, Kyeongsu Kim, Date: May 25, 2011

4. System(s) studied: Charlotte light rail

Summary of findings: Study looked at neighborhoods around light rail stops rather than just areas close to stops. Light rail resulted in neighborhood value increases for up to a mile from stops. There was no impact on commercial properties.

Institution: University of North Carolina-Charlotte


Title: “Estimating Value of a New Transit Option”

Authors: Stephen B. Billings, Date: March 15, 2011

5. System(s) studied: Minneapolis Hiawatha Line (light rail)

Summary of findings: Residential, both single and multi-family, near stations on the west side of the line saw significant increase in property values after the 2004 opening. The east side of the line is comprised largely of industrial properties, which saw no increase in value.

Institution: University Of Minnesota, Center for Transportation Studies

Contact: NA

Title: “The Hiawatha Line: Impacts on Land Use and Residential Housing Value”

Authors: Edward G. Goetz, Kate Ko, Aaron Hagar, Hoang Ton, Jeff Matson, Date: Feb. 2010

6. System(s) studied: Sacramento Light Rail

Summary of findings: No relationship between property values and proximity to a light rail station or line.

Institution: Bay Area Economics

Contact: Taiwo Jaiyeoba, (916) 557-4536, Alexander Quinn (530) 750-2195

Title: “Sacramento RT Economic Impacts of Light Rail”

Authors: Bay Area Economics, Date: September 8, 2005

7. System(s) studied: Portland Light Rail

Summary of findings: “….there have been some positive effects of rail on single-family  property values.”

Institution: Center for Urban Studies, Portland State University

Contact: (503) 725-4020

Title: “Effects of Light Rail Transit in Portland, Implications for Transit Oriented Development Design Concepts”

Authors: Kenneth J Dueker (, Martha J. Blanco (, Date: 1998

Multi-modal studies:

8. System(s) studied: Meta-study of earlier studies of 7 rail systems including BART (San Francisco, heavy rail), Metrorail (Miami-Dade County, heavy rail), PATCO (New Jersey, heavy rail), SEPTA (Philadelphia; commuter rail), MAX light rail (Portland), MARTA (Atlanta, heavy rail), Spadina Ave. line (Toronto, streetcar); plus one narrowly focused study of five systems in Northern California

Summary of findings: Rail systems increase property values. A residence will most likely increase in value if it is in a lower to middle income, stable neighborhood, and within 1/4 to 1/2 mile of a station but not adjacent to a station. The more extensive the rail system, the larger the increase in property values. The amount of increase in property values is closely tied to the time savings of rail versus other transportation alternatives.

Institution: Booze Allen Hamilton Inc.

Contact: Roderick B. Diaz

Title: Conference Proceedings Paper; American Public Transit Association Rapid Transit Conference

Authors: Roderick B. Diaz, Date: May 1999

Contributor: Mark McDowell



Posted in Local Transit Issues, Rail, Regional Transit Issue | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Denver Commercial Development Booms Around Transit Stops

Posted by Transit Action Network on October 9, 2013

The new commuter rail "Canopy" at Denver's historic Union Station. The old station building is at the top of the photograph connected to the rail terminal by the portico shown; and to buses and light rail by facilities below the rail level.

The new commuter rail “Canopy” at Denver’s historic Union Station. The old station building is at the top of the photograph connected to the rail terminal by the portico shown; and to buses and light rail by facilities below the rail level.

The Regional Transit Alliance series on Transit and Economic Development recently had a luncheon talk by Phillip A. Washington, General Manager of Denver’s Regional Transit District (RTD).  Mr. Washington testified to the ability of transit to concentrate development around transit stations. The RTD is an active partner in development, with a Manager of Development and a staff of five people.

Rendering of Denver Union Station showing new streets, pedestrian mall and underground bus-way. Note development on either side of street/pedestrian mall. Subterranean walkway, surface streets and pedestrian mall connect to light rail stop.

Rendering of Denver Union Station showing new streets, pedestrian mall and underground bus-way. Note development on either side of street/pedestrian mall. Subterranean walkway, surface streets and pedestrian mall connect to light rail stop.

As readers of this blog are probably aware, Denver already had a large transit network, both rail and bus, and is now in the midst of a $4.7 billion transit improvement project called “Fastracks“. The program includes light rail, commuter rail, BRT, and a radical re-purposing of the old Denver Union Station as a multimodal hub.

The Union Station part of the project alone will cost about $500 million and utilizes some nine different funding sources including six different Federal sources. The light rail facility is located a few blocks from the commuter rail and bus facility. The distance between the two is spanned by a wide pedestrian mall which was part of approximately 50 acres of vacant land (former rail yards) surrounding the station. See an artist’s rendering of the completed mall.

Land not used for transit facilities is being developed by a partnership of Union Station Neighborhood Corporation, two private development companies in the Denver area, the RTD, and the City of Denver. The next photograph shows the new Union Station Light Rail facility and some recent development around Union Station.

With 50 acres of downtown real estate, two of the most experienced developers in Denver as partners, and RTD’s own staff focused on development, one is not surprised that Mr. Washington is bullish on development around transit stations. One might add, “And how!”.

New Union Station light rail facility on first day of operations of the "West Line" light rail. Note new mixed use development in background.

New Union Station light rail facility on first day of operations of the “West Line” light rail. Note new mixed use development in background.

The photograph also shows the opening day of the West Line or “W Line”, light rail line. Opened in April, 2013, it was the first part of the FasTracks project completed. Running 12.1 miles between Denver Union Station and Golden, Colorado, at a cost of $709 million; the line is estimated to carry 18,000 riders per day. In fact, ridership was about 14,000 in the initial months, without the benefit of college students commuting to colleges along the route.

Eighteen thousand riders per day sounds staggering to anyone familiar with ridership estimates for Kansas City area transit projects over the years. For example, the Ridership Comparison chart shows Denver’s West Line compared with two current Kansas City area projects. (Ridership for the I-70 commuter rail is the average ridership projected from the two models used for the 3rd and Grand terminus in the Jackson County Commuter Corridors Alternatives Analysis (JCCC AA))

Click To Enlarge

Click To Enlarge

These projects are not strictly comparable as they include different modes, serve different sorts of neighborhoods, and Denver’s ‘W Line’ is integrated into an existing rail transit network. Be that as it may, Kansas City projects generally continue to show low estimated ridership numbers compared with projects elsewhere – a consequence of our history of well designed boulevards and extensive interstate system.

Low estimated ridership for rail proposals also causes cost-per-rider to be high. This measure of cost effectiveness, used by the Federal Transit Administration, often inhibits the Kansas City area’s ability to attract Federal Funds.

Note however, as the  Annual Capital Cost per Rider chart indicates, that the downtown streetcar, which recently received a Federal TIGER grant, has a lower cost per rider than Denver’s West Line. This is due to both lower construction cost per mile and relatively strong ridership for the short 2 mile distance.

By contrast, the proposed Jackson County commuter rail project has a very high cost per rider due to very low estimated ridership, even though the capital cost, at $385 million (average of estimated range from the JCCC AA), is much lower than Denver’s West Line.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

While it is a good measure of system efficiency, ridership is not the only factor relevant to evaluating a transit project’s success. Commercial development and indirect job creation are other important parameters, as Mr. Washington pointed out.

One of the lessons to be drawn from his talk, albeit indirectly, is that development around transit stations doesn’t just happen, It requires the transit agency and units of local government to be proactive, and partner with experienced developers from the private sector to make projects happen. Surely it also helps if you have fifty acres of undeveloped property adjacent to the city center that happens to also be next to one of your stations.

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TIGER Grant Reduces Need To Take Money From The Buses

Posted by Transit Action Network on September 15, 2013

TIGERTransit Action Network is very excited about the city receiving the Federal $20 million TIGER grant. These grants are very competitive and there are a lot more applications than there is money to distribute.

We congratulate Kansas City on its successful application. As the US Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx, told  the Kansas City Star when he was in Kansas City on September 6 to announce the grant,  “The community has its act together in a big way,” he said. “Coming together to put an 80 percent match on the table — we know what the overall vision for Kansas City is.”


You may wonder why the city only had 80% of the money. The 20% streetcar-funding shortfall that Foxx referred to happened when Kansas City decided to reduce the top rates for the TDD (Transportation Development District) property tax prior to the streetcar election. In the original plan, the top property tax rates, combined with the sales tax, would have fully funded the streetcar from revenue collected within the TDD. In order to close the funding gap the city created, the city plans to take $2 million a year from the revenue generated by the city-wide 1/2 cent Transportation Sales Tax. This sales tax is used to pay for bus service. Since the federal government is now filling that funding gap through the TIGER grant, the city shouldn’t need to tap the half-cent sales tax. Applying that yearly $2 million toward bus service would come close to paying for a new MAX line on Prospect, or on another urban corridor such as Independence Avenue or North Oak Trafficway. METRO logo

We hope the city will do the right thing and use this TIGER grant money to fill the streetcar funding gap, thereby reducing or eliminating entirely the amount taken from the ½ cent Transportation Sales Tax. The federal TIGER grant for the streetcar is a huge win for everyone, provided the city uses it to restore money that would otherwise be diverted from the bus system.

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Commuter Rail? Maybe-Maybe Not – – – $1.8 million to Study Transit Corridors!

Posted by Transit Action Network on December 22, 2010

December 21,2010 MARC announced that the Kansas City Region was awarded $1.8 million by the FTA for ‘Alternatives Analysis’ studies for transit in three corridors.  Two have been identified as having potential for commuter rail — they are part of the ‘Regional Rapid Rail’ system promoted by Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders — and the third has potential for modern streetcar in the downtown to Crown Center corridor.

The media are jumping to commuter rail conclusions based on expectations from Sanders’ innumerable public presentations. In fact, while the studies will look at commuter rail they will also look at other options such as express bus, BRT and even light rail. This is different from the recent ‘Commuter Corridors Study’ in which MARC allowed commuter rail to be the preferred solution.  In an FTA Alternatives Analysis all the transit modes have to be treated in an equivalent manner. The MARC press release is objective and doesn’t promote a particular alternative.  Stories in the Star and KC Business Journal jump right to commuter rail conclusions.

The bottom line for now is that press reports about this grant feed unrealistic public expectations. The FTA recently changed its evaluation process and that is partly why rail is being considered again in these corridors. Previous analysis along the I-70 corridor resulted in express buses as the preferred alternative. At first glance commuter rail looks remarkably (and seductively) cost effective.  With closer scrutiny however, the realities of this plan suggest that federal funding will be difficult to secure. Unless the changes to the FTA evaluation process make a huge difference, express buses will likely come out on top for the two suburban corridors.

Meanwhile, the ‘downtown streetcar’ corridor study will restart work in preparation for rail in the most promising corridor for federal funding in the region.

Posted in Local Transit Issues, Rail | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »