Tag Archives: transit

How To Buy A Home That Grows in Value

Continuing the transit theme from the past few days, here’s one way to ensure your house increases in value: make sure it’s located near a transit station.

That’s according to a study commissioned by the American Public Transportation Association. The study argues that people are willing to pay more for housing located near public transit:

Moving beyond the traditional arguments that good schools and neighborhood amenities impact hous- ing prices, emerging research has indicated that urban form and transportation options have played a key role in the ability of residential properties to maintain their value since the onset of the recession.

Studies have shown that consumers are willing to pay more for housing located in areas that exemplify new urbanist principles or are “traditional neighborhood developments.” These neighborhoods are walkable, higher density, and have a mix of uses as well as access to jobs and amenities such as transit.

I’m an example of this.

People, including me, are willing to pay more for housing located near transit.

People, including me, are willing to pay more for housing located near transit.

As I mentioned earlier this week, I just moved to Salt Lake to be closer to my job. I chose the location of my new home based on proximity to my office, but equally important was proximity to Frontrunner. We pay considerably more per square foot for housing in Salt Lake than we did in Provo and we’re willing to do that because it’s located three blocks from the Frontrunner station and one block from a TRAX stop.

The study goes on to mention that housing near transit was more resilient during the recession. (I haven’t finished reading the study yet but if I didn’t blog it now, I’d never get around to it. I’ll finish it Friday after work.)

On the other end of the spectrum, Grist reported earlier this year that there are 40 million McMansions that no one wants because they’re not located in walkable, transit-oriented neighborhoods:

Only 43 percent of Americans prefer big suburban homes, says Chris Nelson, head of the Metropolitan Research Center at the University of Utah. That mean demand for “large-lot” homes is currently 40 million short of the available stock — and not only that, but the U.S. is short 10 million attached homes and 30 million small homes, which are what people really want.

Taken together, then, it’s pretty clear what kinds of housing will retain and increase in value: transit oriented ones. That should be helpful for people with a home purchase somewhere in their future; they just need to check potential sites’ proximity to public transit.

Homes without access to public transit don't retain value well. In some cases no one even wants them.

Homes without access to public transit don’t retain value well. In some cases no one even wants them.

For those already in a home, being along the Wasatch Front, and particularly in Provo, happens to be a good place because we have an expanding transit system and a growing population. However, it’s important to keep in mind that supporting transit — as well as transit-promoting development like density, mixed uses, low or no parking, etc. — is also a reliable way to improve home values.


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Filed under commuting, Development, economics

Transit Pays For Itself

Yesterday, I wrote that subsidizing transit is a better idea that subsidizing parking for transit users.

As it turns out, it’s hard to understate that case.

The Atlantic Cities reported earlier this week that Germany’s transit subsidies more than paid for themselves when externalities are considered:

Germany recouped its public investment in rail through environmental and public health savings alone. That’s before considering farebox revenue, and without even factoring in the time and money saved from reduced congestion. Simply put, the research underscores the fact that there are many ways to justify the public value of a transit project.

When all things are considered — those revenues, time savings and other things that weren’t factored in — the investment in transit makes even more sense.

A study in Germany showed that transit subsidies paid for themselves.

A study in Germany showed that transit subsidies paid for themselves.

That’s great news for those of us along the Wasatch Front, which has a rapidly expanding rail system.

Anyway, the reason reason this works is because driving imposes a whole set of costs on society; it isn’t just the cost of gas and time for the individual, it’s also the environmental costs, the costs of accidents, the inefficiency of traffic on the overall system, etc. After Utah’s particularly polluted winter, this idea should be easy to understand.

In this light, it makes sense to pay for public transit projects.

I’d argue this also means it makes sense to strongly incentivize transit use. So, again, give away free rides, as I called for yesterday and several months ago. Make up revenue in parking fees (at least until demand for parking dries up). And generally, do whatever necessary to move from costly, or less efficient forms of travel like driving, to cheaper, more efficient forms of travel like rail.

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“This is stupid growth”

One of the more depressing things about reading Jane Jacobs is learning how her community rose up to stop massive projects that would have disrupted the city. That’s great for them, but it makes it all the more depressing when our communities along the Wasatch Front do nothing — or, worse, cheer on — massive boondoggles like freeway and interchange expansions.

But that isn’t always the case.

Recently in Layton a group of concerned citizens came together to oppose a proposed highway expansion in their county:

“We don’t want Utah to build a road through Farmington Bay,” Kalt said to the crowd of more than 100, citing the harm to wildlife, the increase in pollution, the cost and the community disruption. “This affects all of us.”

Hundreds of people demonstrated against plans for theWest Davis Corridor, a 24-mile, $600 million highway proposed by the Utah Department of Transportation.

Residents in Layton recently protested a highway expansion in their county.

Later, a UDOT spokesman is quoted as saying that the real question is what route the highway will take. I know the individual people at UDOT are well intentioned, but I’m left wondering if it has occurred to them that conventional highways are not the only, or even best, way to move goods and people. Or, as one of the sources in the story puts it,

“This is not smart growth,” Ingwell told the Saturday crowd. “This is stupid growth.”

 The entire thing is reminiscent, at least to me, of stories I’ve read about communities actually rising up and stopping destructive mega-projects.

I also wondered why this doesn’t happen more often. The I15 Core project, which widened the freeway, was a massive incentive for more driving. Why didn’t we all protest that? Provo’s Center Street interchange came down like a hammer on west Provo; why wasn’t there more outcry?

One reason is probably that it’s hard for any of us, myself included, to realize that there are alternatives.

But another reason is that it may also be hard to imagine that these projects actually go through our communities; the people in Layton took action when they realized that there was something very real at stake.

However, all of these projects do have a real impact on our communities. A widened freeway, for example, creates larger dead zones on either side that can’t be developed into much. I struggle to envision a scenario in which parts of west Provo recover from the interchange, and that will have lasting, negative repercussions on the entire city.

In other words, we all have something at stake when it comes to the infrastructure decisions that impact communities along the Wasatch Front. In that light, the protest in Layton will hopefully be the first of many aimed at stopping car-centric, anti-human projects.


Filed under commuting, Development

The Wasatch Front Leads In Transit Development

Though I wouldn’t have guessed it, the Wasatch Front has more transit projects than nearly all other regions in the U.S.

Reconnecting America recently produced an interactive map of transit projects in all major American metro areas. The map includes 30 projects in northern Utah. As far as I could tell, only L.A. and Washington D.C. had more projects in the pipeline. Chicago tied with the Wasatch Front.

Screen shot 2013-01-23 at 7.17.13 PMClearly this is significant because it means that Utah is investing in its future. It’s also fascinating that it is investing more heavily than places that would stereotypically have more interested in mass transit.

But it’s also good because, in light of the recent inversion and Beijing-like pollution, Utah cannot continue to rely on cars. It’s literally making us sick.

In any case, the map is worth checking out if for no other reason than because it lists the status of all of Utah’s transit projects. That means the Provo-Orem bus rapid transit project is there, as is the Frontrunner line south of Provo, the TRAX line to the airport and an array of other things.

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There Are Many Pieces to the Transit Puzzle

Via Twitter, I recently saw of the picture below from Brandon Stone:

This picture shows the end of a sidewalk on Decker Lake Blvd.

This picture shows the end of a sidewalk on Decker Lake Blvd. It was taken by Brandon Stone

Stone explained the situation in a couple of tweets:

Screen shot 2013-01-09 at 7.23.21 PM

Screen shot 2013-01-09 at 7.23.28 PM

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams responded to Stone’s tweets, so hopefully things will get better in the future.

But in the meantime, this spot is a perfect example of a space that is antagonistic to people. I’m left wondering what the designers of this street were thinking and how they expected people — as opposed to cars — to get around. Unfortunately, however, they probably never even considered people.

As a result, brave commuters like Stone are forced to navigate legitimately dangerous situations. I’ve written many times about accidents on this blog — most recently in November — and a spot like this seems designed to encourage them. Whoever made it should face criminal charges.

This situation also emphasizes the problems of an incomplete transit system. If I understand things correctly, Stone was taking transit but couldn’t safely walk from the station to his destination. That’s sure to discourage other transit riders and makes me wonder why we’ve invested all this money in light rail if we’re not actually going to connect it to anything. This must change.

This situation also shows that we’re not thinking of transit correctly. Based on Stone’s experience I’d say the system was designed to shuttle drivers from place to place — or parking lot to parking lot — thereby making car trips shorter. In other words, transit is being treated as a partial replacement to driving. It’s supplemental.

A better approach — and an obvious one when destinations are so close to stations — is to treat it as a complete replacement for driving. That’s a distinction I wrote about in this post, and we’re really quite close here.

In any case, until these kinds of situations change we’re throwing away money on infrastructure, creating ugly places that few people will use and, most importantly, make it difficult and dangerous to get around. Why would anyone want to do that?

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Frontrunner Free Ride Day

Saturday was the free ride day on the Frontrunner. There were long lines in Provo, packed trains all day and very cold temperatures.

Below I’ve included pictures from my experience on the train. That experience began in Provo, but when we saw how long the line was we realized we wouldn’t be able to meet up with the rest of our group in Lehi. As a result, we drove up to the Thanksgiving Point station and got on the train there. I know, more driving is bad, but at least we got to see two stations.

A few things worth noting in these images:

•  The parking lot in Provo was very full at certain times but less so at others. I’ll be interested to see how demand for parking compares to supply. My guess is that like almost every parking lot, supply will exceed demand.

• The Thanksgiving Point station is way cooler than the Provo station. I’m not sure that really means anything, but it was fun to see.

• On the ride home, we were in an older car with leather seats and faux wood paneling. It was super classy.

• Laura and I wondered about the psychology of the event; after waiting in bitter cold weather for hours, riding in standing room only cars, and then experiencing delays (we were stuck in Murray for more than 30 minutes on our way back) we wondered if some people would be discouraged by the free ride. However, so far I’ve only heard good things — and I’ve heard UTA even provided busses to keep people warm in some cases — so our fears anecdotally appear to be unfounded.


Filed under commuting

Frontrunner Free Ride Day

The opening of commuter rail is finally upon us, with the free ride day beginning tomorrow at 10 am and regular service starting Monday. If you’ve been reading this blog regularly, you probably know the details, but just in case UTA created this page with all the relevant information.

The Frontrunner station in Provo.

The Frontrunner station in Provo.

Most importantly, the free rides will go from 10 am to 10 pm (so don’t get stuck in the wrong city) and “cost” a can of food. UTA also has these safety tips on its site, which are pretty self-evidence but still worth remembering:

  • Dwell time at each station is scheduled for 30 seconds and we expect large crowds. Please be prepared to embark/disembark in an efficient manner. The doors will not open once they have been locked down for departure.
  • If riding on an upper level, please make your way downstairs prior to arriving at the station.
  • Before you cross railroad tracks or enter a FrontRunner platform:
    • always watch for trains—look both ways
    • take off your head phones
    • put  your cell phone down—no texting or phone calls
    • hop off your bike or skateboard
    • hold smaller children’s hands
    • never cross between train cars—always walk around to a designated safe crossing
  • Always stand behind the yellow tactile strip when trains approach the platform.
  • Never walk or play on tracks or the rail corridor; even for short cuts.  It could be deadly and is trespassing, punishable by a $100 or greater fine.
  • Never go around a lowered gate or try to outrun a train.  Just wait for the train to pass, the gates to lift and lights to stop before crossing the track.
  • Never throw things at the train or place things on the track; you could get hurt or even derail the train.
Please don't let yourself get run over by the train. It's not hard a hard thing to do.

Please don’t let yourself get run over by the train.

And in case you haven’t seen it, UTA also has a comprehensive Frontrunner FAQ page that includes most additional information.


Filed under commuting, travel