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Posted at 11:14 AM ET, 02/01/2012

How streetcars would boost D.C.’s bottom line

Will D.C.’s streetcar system be worth its $1.5 billion expense? A recent study indicates that the answer is a resounding yes.

One of the key differences between buses and streetcars is that streetcars induce land development. That benefits the city from a smart-growth and urbanist perspective. It also turns out to be a big win for the city’s coffers.

The D.C. Office of Planning’s Streetcar Land Use Study was commissioned to determine the impact that the city’s planned streetcar network will have on development and on city tax revenue.

The findings are, to put it mildly, extremely positive.

Positive impacts

According to the study, the great benefit of streetcars will be that they tremendously expand the number of households and business properties that are within walking distance of a rail station. With streetcars, the share of D.C. residents within a quarter mile of a rail stop will increase from today’s 16 percent up to 50 percent.

That will correspond to an increase in the value of properties along streetcar lines by $5 billion to $7 billion. Another $5 billion to $8 billion in new development can be expected, resulting in a total property value increase of $10 to $15 billion due to streetcars.

That would result in $238 million to $291 million in new tax revenue for the city each year, after completion of the 37-mile streetcar network. At that rate it would take only 6 years for the city to recoup the full $1.5 billion cost. After six years, the tax revenue would be pure profit.

Tax revenue isn’t the only benefit, of course. The demographic impacts are significant. Compared to a no-streetcars baseline scenario, over a 10-year period, the streetcar network is anticipated to induce 6,300-7,700 new jobs in the District, up to 12,000 new households, and up to 1.3 million square feet of new retail development.

That is a big deal.

[Continue reading Dan Malouff’s post at BeyondDC.]

Dan Malouff is an Arlington County transportation planner who blogs independently at BeyondDC.com. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By  |  11:14 AM ET, 02/01/2012

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