Sound Transit needs your input!

Last fall I was saddened to learn that the greater Puget Sound region voted down the mass transit package that had been put forward for the Pierce, King and Snohomish County areas. While that put a bump in the highway, so to speak, for the transit people it didn’t stop them from moving forward to see what other options could be considered for our area. Transit is a major issue for our continued quality of life in this region and many groups, government, non-profit, and public based are coming together to try and make it more and more of a priority.

It’s an enormous issue when it comes to real estate and it will impact what cities and neighborhoods will thrive over the coming years. Think of it like the railroad towns of the late 1800’s that once the automobile became the major mode of transportation, those towns dwindled to permanent small town status UNLESS they found another way to be relevant. Today, we need a more diverse mix of convenient transit options more similar to places like Washington DC, Portland, New York, Chicago or like our European counterparts in Paris, London, Madrid, or Milan.

The big question here is whether or not the choices that are implemented are ones that the public wants or feels is appropriate. If you want to see what is going on, check out this website at Sound Transit, and start providing your public comments to the conversation.

For my own part, I am proud to be a member of the local REALTOR(R) association and as part of my volunteer time spent with programs they have such as committee meetings, I am also involved in the current opinion panel work that is bringing together our organization with others that are shaping the area – such as city council members, Sound Transit, park departments, non-profit environmental groups, and more. We’re focused on trying to find common ground that we believe will benefit all in the area and transit is a big part of it. I hope you’ll join the discussion too.

Neighborhood Roundup: Breaking the Espresso Rut

Creating the list of active neighborhood blogs was only the first step in my grand vision… (or is it Greg that has the grand neighborhood vision?) Okay… Maybe there is no grand plan, but I thought it would be fun to give a roundup of recent neighborhood posts…

The West Seattle Blog has turned to Cafe Rozella to break out of an espresso rut and is “really impressed”.

Dave at the Learning from Lake City expanded my skatepark world view considerably… Skatedots? Skatepots? Districts? Regionals? Who knew?

Georgetown Stew highlights a scam where people are not only taking advantage of day laborers, but it gets worse

Not only are some folks in South Park being stiffed out of their wages, the employer(s) are apparently asking the workers for their home address, with the promise that a paycheck will arrive in the mail. And then the surprise arrives. Not a check, but officers from Immigration & Naturalization show up.

Beach Drive gives us a beautiful photo of a brave soul on the Sound…

Linked a day too soon to the Outer Limits blogEricka announced that she was moving on (thanks to a job!) and looking for a replacement…

The Miller Park Neighborhood Association blog is looking to get people out at an upcoming (March 28th) Sound Transit meeting to show support for lightrail on the eastside

The Kirkland Weblog highlighted a great new photo blog out of Kirkland… The idea (as I understand it) is that the author of Kirkland 52 is planning to post photos of Kirkland once a week over the next year.

The Capitol Hill Seattle blog indulges their love of maps with an interesting map of voter patterns on the Viaduct Replacement. (PI Article)

The Belltown Bent highlights an award given by a Harvard Group to Weiss/Manfredi Architects for their work on the Olympic Sculpture Park.

Ballard Avenue wallows a bit in the transportation history of Ballard… I think the photo makes the post.

How Does Mass Transit Affect Property Values?

I’ve been at a couple of gatherings lately with Microsoft employees and other tech folk who have some money to invest and are considering investing in real estate. I’ve recommended that they consider buying along future transit lines like the green line (monorail) or the lightrail route. (If they’re feeling adventurous, I also mention the southlake union streetcar.) In making these recommendations, I’ve been operating under the assumption that additional mass transit will increase nearby property values. But rather than live by assumptions, I decided to do a little research on the subject.

Financing Transit Systems Through Value Capture does a great job summarizing how transit can affect property values:

Proximity to transit can affect property values in three somewhat different ways, one negative and two positive.

First, being located very close to a transit station or along a transit line tends to have negative effects, due to noise and air pollution from trains, and increased automobile traffic from users. These nuisance may reduce residential property values very close to a transit station or rail line.

Second, it gives one location a relative advantage over other locations, attracting residential and commercial development that would otherwise occur elsewhere in the region. This is an economic transfer.

Third, transit can also increase overall productivity by reducing total transportation costs (including costs to consumers, businesses and governments) for vehicles, parking and roads and providing a catalyst for more clustered development patterns that provide economies of agglomeration, which can reduce the costs of providing public services and increase productivity due to improved accessibility and network effects (Coffey and Shearmur, 1997). Although these productivity benefits are difficult to quantify, they can be large: just a few percentage increase in property values, a few percentage reduction in automobile and parking costs, or few percentage increase in business productivity in a community can total hundreds of millions of dollars.

The cited report operates under the assumption that mass transit not only increases property values, but that it increases them to a point where the projects could pay for themselves if only the increased property values could be “captured” through some type of taxing mechanism. This argument is one that has been around since at least the 70s, and while the argument is interesting, I’m began my research wanting to test the basic assumption that mass transit even adds value to nearby properties.

Actual Data
Probably the most comprehensive study I could find on the subject was a study by PB (a transportation consulting firm) called: The Effect of Rail Transit on Property Values. It is loaded with case studies for both residential and commercial properties, and in general, the data is clear that a property values near a rail station are much greater than those farther away. The report gives lots of data showing that property values in Washington DC, Atlanta, San Francisco, New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Santa Clara County, Portland, and San Diego all increased near transit stations. (Note that many of the results are phrased “price decrease by $XXX for every XX feet further from station.’ This is just another way of saying that prices increase near the station.) While two cities (Sacramento and San Jose) showed either no effect or a decrease in home values near the transit stations, the report found that (at least in San Jose), the property along the rail corridors were historically poorer (long before the current lightrail was added) than other parts of San Jose.

The results from a study of property values around BART in the San Francisco Bay Area are pretty conclusive:

Table 1: Single Family Homes

Distance from BART CBD/Urban Suburban
(feet) (per unit) (per unit)
0 to 500 $48,960 $9,140
500 to 1000 $14,040 $7,930
1000 to 1500 $8,640 $3,040
2000 to 2500 $5.760 $5,500

Assuming this data holds for Seattle, then residents should expect to see substantial increases in property values after the mass transit is built assuming that this price increase is not already factored into the existing property values. Note that almost all of Seattle is “urban” by the study’s definition. (On a personal note, I recently purchased a home in Ballad near the proposed green line and am thrilled by the prospect that Seattlites will be essentially subsidizing my property values should the monorail ever be built!)

While, I started off thinking that additional mass transit would add to property values, I had a hard time finding any evidence to the contrary (research bias?). Nearly every article I found on-line gushed about how mass transit was increasing nearby property values:

In conclusion, after a few hours of research, I’m more convinced than ever that mass transit increases property values.

Does this mean that mass transit is always a good idea? Probably not… There are plenty of good arguments for not wanting mass transit such as increased noise, increased traffic, increased parking congestion, etc. However, if you are interested in making a good investment in the Seattle area, finding a home/apartment/commercial building near a future transit line seems like a great way to increase the likelihood that your investment will pay off in the long run.

Do you want more information? I’ve created an on-line bookmark of related articles at I’ll continue to update add articles to this link as I come across them!

In addition, I’ve just received an email from Seattle Monorail staff that they will be sending me a report (hard copy) that I requested titled The New Seattle Monorail’s Potential Effect on Property Values (Seattle Monorail Project, August 24, 2002). (I have no idea why they don’t have an electronic version..). If there are any gems of information out of that report, I’ll update this posting.