In trying to make the case for billions of dollars in capacity upgrades in coming years, Metro officials are not arguing only that the improvements will enhance train service but that Metro is critical to making neighborhoods more walkable, and thus more attractive to businesses, home buyers and apartment renters.
The agency recently posted some data about the most- and least-walkable stations, based in part on the availability of sidewalks, pedestrian bridges, crosswalks and the like.
This isn’t really a measure of whether there are jobs, homes, shopping or restaurants within walking distance of the stations, but a measure of whether a passenger coming to or from the station can easily walk to whatever is there.
The value of living or working near a Metro station has never been so acute, with researchers finding last year that offices within one-20th of a mile (264 feet) of Metro earn a more than 30 percent premium in rents over those that are a quarter of a mile from a station.
Washington’s current building boom is largely fueled by apartments near Metro stations, with so many new units going up that Metro cars are already filled during rush hour in some neighborhoods. Additionally more than 80 percent of the office space being built in the region is within a quarter mile of a Metro station.
Metro wants to make the value of that accessibility clear to locally elected leaders as it pushes for more funding, so it is trying to encourage and assist local jurisdictions in taking advantage of their stations by making the areas around them more friendly to pedestrians. Doing so could allow those juridictions to add new households, businesses and jobs, which mean tax revenue.
Shyam Kannan, director of planning for Metro, points out that some counties and communities have done much better leveraging their stations than others.
“As the map above shows, some of the station areas have excellent coverage – nearly 100 percent of the area within a half-mile radius is accessible by foot – while others have so many gaps in the network that getting from the station to any type of amenity (housing, retail, office, parks, churches) is virtually impossible,” he writes.
D.C. and Arlington have historically gobbled up the most household growth near Metro stations by bringing development to its stations, but according to Metro data that lead is beginning to slip. The chart below shows the share of household growth that occurred near Metro stations since 2011.
As the chart shows, there hasn’t been too much change in where new households are being added from 2011 to 2013. But look for the numbers to change in coming years as areas like Tysons Corner and White Flint add thousands of new apartments. Alexandria may also be adding a new Metro station at Potomac Yard, where thousands of other new apartments and homes have already opened with many more on the way. D.C. and Arlington won’t be the only places to live near a Metro station.
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