I so enjoyed using the light rail in Calgary that it got me thinking about transit and what it means to a city. Ironically it is Covid that put me on the bus in the first place. The rental cars were all booked, and I have family in the city, so I wasn’t dependent on public transport. I wanted to use it to give myself a little independence. What a pleasant surprise to find it so convenient, clean and timely.
(The other companion structural hardscape I noticed were the frequent pedestrian bridges arching over the thoroughfares. They lead people to the light rail stops, of course. They also bridge neighborhoods, which is very useful for parks and trail access. But I digress, back to transit.)
It is no longer controversial to say that real estate home values increase along light rail lines. Studies are easy to come by. Here is a section from a piece posted on the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis’ site.
Property Values and Development
One benefit of light rail is its potential impact on nearby property values. There is much academic literature on this angle.
The research generally finds that rail transit has a positive impact on residential property values, although the impact is relatively small. One study found that property values in Portland, Ore., increased by $75 for every 100 feet closer a home is to a light-rail station, and the average home price in New York declined by about $2,300 for every 100 feet farther from the station. In another study of the Portland rail system, the authors found that home prices increase as a result of being closer to a rail transit station, but the effect was only significant within 1,500 feet of the station. Another study found that the typical home in San Diego sold for $272 more for every 100 meters closer to a rail station, but the distance to a rail station in Sacramento had no significant impact on residential property values.Saint Louis Fed
See the problem with the analysis? There is a pretty potpourri of measures. And the use of dollars (as opposed to percentages), as if property values in Portland are the same as New York or San Diego. The distances from the stations are in feet and meters. Then an observation is made that the effects are small– compared to what?
In math, every problem starts with definitions. You can’t very well solve for something if you haven’t determined what is at stake. We know that the public good transit exerts an externality on the private good, a home. But how does it work?
TO BE CONTINUED