Before & After: Rail Spurs Economic Development

June 18, 2010 42 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

In an effort to prove local rail-based mass transit can bring density and economic development to a sprawling region like the First Coast, Metro Jacksonville presents a visual argument of this phenomenon taking place in peer cities across the country.

Did You Know?

 Every $1 spent on public transit projects generates on average $6 in local economic activity. (Source: American Public Transportation Association)

 Between 3,140 and 5,700 jobs are generally created for every $100 million invested in public transit. (Source: Cambridge Systematics, Inc.)

 Research shows that businesses realize a gain in sales of three times the public sector investment in transit ; a $100 million transit investments results in a $300 million increase in business sales. (Source: Cambridge Systematics, Inc.)

Need Examples?

Click on images to enlarge

San Diego Trolley - Before: 1994, After: 2010

Portland Max LRT - Before: 1994, After: 2010

More than $6 billion in development has occurred along Portland’s MAX light rail lines since the decision to build in 1978 (Source: TriMet, Portland, Oregon).  Portland’s streetcar line also has generated $2.8 billion in investments. Between 1997 and 2005, 7,200 new housing units and 4.6 million square feet of commercial development occurred in the Pearl District, once a blighted industrial area near the line.

Portland Streetcar - Before: 1994, After: 2010

Santa Clara VTA LRT (San Jose) - Before: 1999, After: 2010

TECO Streetcar (Tampa) - Before: 2002, After: 2010

But proponents say Tampa's Teco Line Streetcar System has delivered on another front: helping to spur development. Some $450 million in residential and retail space is complete along the route, most of it in the Channel District, a once-languishing maritime neighborhood. With another $450 million in development underway and $1.1 billion in the planning stages, local officials expect the district to be home to as many as 10,000 residents within the next decade.

Like stadiums, convention centers and aquariums, streetcars have emerged as a popular tool in the effort to revitalize downtowns in the U.S. About a dozen cities, from Madison, Wis., to Miami, are planning lines. But while research shows that big-ticket projects such as ballparks largely fail to spawn economic development, evidence is mounting that streetcars are indeed a magnet.

Kenosha Trolley - Before: 2000, After: 2010

In Kenosha, Wis., city officials say a two-mile line helped generate 400 new residential units and the redevelopment of a 69-acre industrial site into a waterfront park.

Little Rock River Rail Streetcar - Before: 2001, After: 2010

Between 2007 and the opening of Little Rock's River Rail Streetcar in 2004, over $400 million in private development took place within two blocks of the streetcar's alignment. City Handout for distribution.pdf

Memphis Streecar - Before: 1997, After: 2010

Since its opening in 1993, Memphis' MATA Streetcar system has expanded from 2.5 to 12 miles and attracted over $2 billion in Transit Oriented Development (TOD). City Handout for distribution.pdf

Metrorail (Miami) - Before: 1994, After: 2010

Dadeland South, or downtown Kendall, is the southern terminus of the Metrorail line and represents a textbook example of transit-oriented development. Initiated by the local chamber of commerce, the project's planning process led to a successful, form-based code that has created a roadmap for converting an auto-intensive area into a mixed-used community along two Metrorail stations.

Metrorail (Miami) - Before: 1999, After: 2010

M-Line Streetcar (Uptown Dallas) - Before: 1995, After: 2010

Dallas began building light rail in 1996. Within five years, the 45-mile line generated $3.3 billion in private investment, 32,000 jobs, and 39-53% greater growth in property value than elsewhere in the city.  The investment has continued to $4.26 billion in commercial and residential investments directly related to the rail system (“transit-oriented development”).  The projects have included restaurants, retail shops, professional offices, thousands of housing units, movie theaters, hotels, performing arts centers, and more. (Source: Center for Economic Development and Research, University of North Texas).

Metrorail (Austin) - Before: 2005, After: 2010

Old Pueblo Trolley (Tucson) - Before: 1992, After: 2010

The success of Tucson's Old Pueblo Trolley heritage line has led to a plan for modern streetcar system in this city of 540,000 residents.  Construction on the modern streetcar line is anticipated to begin in late 2010.

Tucson's modern streetcar system, at $25 million a mile, will be an expensive experiment in spurring increased transit use and downtown redevelopment.

Planned for a 2010 start on a four-mile route from University Medical Center to west of the downtown area, the system will be a "great people mover" that will attract new mixed development along its route, especially in the area of the city's Rio Nuevo downtown rejuvenation project, proponents say.

Voters approved the streetcar system last year as part of the Regional Transportation Authority's 20-year transportation improvement plan, which will be partly funded with a half-cent sales tax passed in the election.

METRO LRT (Tempe) - Before: 2004, After: 2010

METRO LRT (Phoenix) - Before: 2006, After: 2010

Installed in the middle of suburbia, Phoenix's METRO LRT has stimulated economic development and already exceeded initial ridership estimates.

City leaders believe that investing in light rail is still cheaper than expanding highways and that rail can help reduce auto emissions in the metropolitan area.  Metro officials expect 26,000 boardings a day in 2009.

Metro’s impressive ridership gains continue apace, the light rail transit agency reported.

April brought new records for total passengers and average weekday passengers, while four times last month more than 50,000 people boarded Metro on a single day. That had happened five times in the entire 16 months of service before April. The Diamondbacks home opener on Monday April 5 now stands as Metro’s daily record-holder, with 55,679 officially measured boardings.

Metro also had its first back-to-back 50,000-passenger days, when D’Backs games coincided with an Eagles concert and a Phoenix Suns playoff game.

Overall, Metro’s weekday ridership continued the yearlong trend of being 20 percent higher than the same months last year. It also meant that Metro saw double-digit increases in total ridership each of the months of 2010. April’s numbers were 4 percent higher than March’s.

METRO (Alexandria, VA) - Before: 1988, After: 2010

LNYX LRT (Charlotte) - Before: 1998, After: 2010

Charlotte just opened the LYNX Blue Line, offering fast, convenient light-rail service along a 9.6-mile route between uptown Charlotte and I-485. There has been $1.87 billion in investment and development along the city’s South Corridor, in large part because of the light rail system (Source: UNC Charlotte’s Center for Transportation Studies, April 2007).  About 50 new development projects have been sparked in Uptown Charlotte, including 3,350 new condominium and apartment units, seven new office projects, two new retail projects, and three hotels (Source: Reconnecting America).

Aerials from Google Earth

A Lesson for Jacksonville

The passing of the proposed 2030 Mobilty Plan could bring much needed sustainable economic development to many areas of Jacksonville, including Brooklyn (pictured above).

Which comes first?  Density or rail?  The images suggest that rail stimulates the type of economic development that creates pedestrian friendly neighborhoods that can serve as an alternative to ever expanding urban sprawl.

Article by Ennis Davis