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Citizens
for Efficient Mass Transit

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Does Light Rail Bring Development?
We think that most people who read the newspapers or watch TV already know the answer to the above question. The Charlotte Trolley and simply the promise of future light rail in the South Corridor has resulted in over $1 billion dollars in new development, or redevelopment of deteriorated areas along the line. New development plans along the corridor are being announced almost weekly. The evidence from this is so obvious that it is incomprehensible how anyone could dispute it.

Yet we had two ex-city councilmen, Jackson and Reid, who some time ago were still trying to tell us that all the development in South End was going to happen anyway, with or without the Charlotte Trolley. It appears quite possible we will continue to add hundreds of millions of additional investment along the corridor in the next few years. Our two ex-councilmen, and others like them, will probably still be in a state of denial, saying it was all just a coincidence.

Transit Oriented Development will pay for the cost of installing light rail several times over, not to mention raising property values everywhere along its right-of-way. This is not an unusual occurrence, it has happened in most all of the 25 or more cities across North America that have built new light rail systems or upgraded existing ones. In some cities the extent of this development has been greater than in others, but the common thread in every case is that the cities that built light rail are better off than before they built these systems.

Let's look at just a couple of examples:
Portland, Oregon's modern streetcar line, a scaled down version of light rail, has attracted 100 projects worth $2.3 billion in less than 5 years since it was built. All of that development was within 2 blocks of the line. There can be no coincidence when this is happening. This development includes 7,248 housing units and 4.6 million sq. ft. of office and retail. Proximity to mass transit allowed developers to build fewer parking spaces. Ridership is more than triple its projections.
Source: USA Today 1/8/07 "cities rediscover allure of streetcars"

In Texas investment in light rail is paying off at a two-to-one rate. The State of Texas will enjoy more than $8.1 billion in economic activity, increased tax revenue, and labor income from the region's $4.86 billion investment in the 45 mile DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) light rail system, and its planned 48 mile extensions, according to a recent study. Conducted by the University of North Texas Center for Economic Development and Research, the study also found that DART's annual operating expenditure of $342 million create additional statewide economic activity of $500 million each year. By 2014 that activity will jump to $650 million.

What about the effects on development here in Charlotte? Even though our first light rail line won't open until this November we can already see big results. The following is the building permit value of construction in the Center City and within ½ mile of the South Corridor transit stations:

2003 $280,649,339
2004 300,751,265
2005 321,885,295
2006 403,130,909
Source: Center for transportation policy studies / UNC Charlotte - April 30, 2007

This May (2007) 2 large residential and retail projects were announced near light rail stations. There was no coincidence about either of them because the builder said they were being built because of the light rail stations nearby. One is near Westinghouse Blvd. and the other near Arrowood. The Westinghouse development could top $350 million and include 1,400 homes. The developer, Steve Harris, is quoted in the Charlotte Business Journal as saying "If there are people who think that mass transit is not the way to go, then they've got their heads in the sand."

06-07-2007


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