Transportation funding and service cuts affect more than just riders

Posted on October 15, 2013 by Heather Redfern - Also by this author

One of the platforms of SEPTA's Ambler Station, which is located on the transit system’s Lansdale/Doylestown Regional (commuter) Rail line, just outside of Philadelphia in Montgomery County, Pa.
One of the platforms of SEPTA's Ambler Station, which is located on the transit system’s Lansdale/Doylestown Regional (commuter) Rail line, just outside of Philadelphia in Montgomery County, Pa.

Across the country, public transit is experiencing record ridership growth. The increase in commuters is not only good for transit organizations’ revenue; proximity to train stations and transportation centers can boost property values for surrounding communities and spur new construction of transit-oriented developments (TODs), shopping centers and other businesses.

But what happens to communities when the “T” in the TODs is no longer there?

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s (SEPTA’s) funding issues have been well-documented: a $300 million capital budget with a current $5 billion state-of-good-repair backlog that is estimated to grow to $6.5 billion by 2023 without additional state capital funding.

Without this money, which is necessary for critical infrastructure repairs and aging vehicle replacement, SEPTA could be forced to implement a service realignment plan that suspends nine of 13 Regional Rail (commuter) lines and truncates two others over the next 10 years, as well as convert trolleys to bus and reduce subway service levels. The plan would be put into effect beginning next year short of an immediate infusion of additional capital funding to defer the cuts.

Lack of financial support for public transportation not only inconveniences millions of riders who rely on buses, trains and trolleys to get to and from work, school and shopping, but cuts in services can have a devastating impact on a community’s property values, too, potentially affecting even non-transit users.

“The Impacts of SEPTA Regional Rail Service on Suburban House Prices,” a recent study of the four suburban counties surrounding Philadelphia (Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery) serviced by SEPTA — specifically its commuter rail system — examines data on recent housing transactions in conjunction with the transit system’s Regional Rail lines to determine the incremental value of being located near a station. The study found that that the average property value premium for the 754,000 single-family homes located in those four counties is $7,900 (approximately $6 billion a total property value). In communities with higher levels of Regional Rail service and parking capacity, the property value premium averages between $31,000 and $37,000 per house.

Another platform at the Ambler Station. The short train ride to and from Philadelphia from this station has made the town desirable for businesses, restaurants and real estate.
Another platform at the Ambler Station. The short train ride to and from Philadelphia from this station has made the town desirable for businesses, restaurants and real estate.

The study, commissioned by SEPTA and conducted independently by Econsult Solutions Inc., a Philadelphia-based economic consulting firm specializing in areas such as transportation, public infrastructure and real estate, looked at single-family house transactions from 2005 to 2012 in Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery Counties and examined the property value premium that results from being located close to a Regional Rail station. The report, available at www.econsultsolutions.com, states that the property value premiums could vanish if SEPTA is forced to implement the realignment plan.

“You can really learn a lot about how much people value things by looking at the housing market,” said Richard P. Voith, president, Econsult Solutions. “It is absolutely clear that access to SEPTA rail service adds to property values.”

This bleak scenario in the Greater Philadelphia region is one that could possibly be repeated in cities across the country. For example, in the October 8, 2013 Boston Globe, columnist Paul McMorrow writes that inadequate funding for the MBTA could “stunt Boston’s growth”, as well as that of its surrounding communities.  

As Voith said, “Whether you use the system or not, it is in your best interests for [SEPTA] to continue to have a robust level of rail service. [SEPTA] contributes a lot to the overall attractiveness of the region.”

In case you missed it...

Read our METRO blog, "Intelligent transportation systems and the urban parking crunch"

View comments or post a comment on this story. (1 Comment)

More Transit Dispatches Blog Posts

April 28, 2016

6 Ways High-Speed Rail Will Benefit Texas, Transportation Industry

Ask commuters who drive between Houston and Dallas almost every day and see what they have to say. They are known as “super commuters” – the nearly 50, 000 people traveling back and forth between the two cities at least once a week. That number will increase as the growth in Texas continues to climb. Super commuters and other drivers want another solution to Texas’ traffic-clogged highways. Enter the Texas Central high-speed rail project...

March 30, 2016

Introducing the Next Generation of Engineers, Architects to Careers in Transit

For many college engineering and architecture students, it’s probably a good bet that they have not given much consideration to careers in public transportation. Members of the SEPTA's Engineering, Maintenance and Construction Division have worked closely with Philadelphia-area university students to introduce them to job opportunities in the realm of mass transit.

February 25, 2016

Where are the Super Bowl-esque ads about public transportation?

When it comes to communicating that people have transportation options besides their own drive-alone cars, the transit industry is getting its lunch handed to it, and has been for decades. It must face that it’s a fringe player that wants to become mainstream. And it’s not getting any easier. While we hear so many great stories about options presented by bikeshare systems and technology and Uber, the fact remains that people are buying cars more than ever.

February 24, 2016

How a Multifaceted Plan Helped SEPTA Weather Jonas

Winter Storm Jonas socked Philadelphia with 22.4 inches of snow in January. In some areas of the five-county SEPTA service region, snowfall totals were well over two feet. As a result of forecasted high winds, zero visibility and significant snow, SEPTA suspended service on all modes — with the exception of the Market-Frankford and Broad Street subway-elevated lines, its two busiest routes — beginning at 4 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 23.

January 27, 2016

How Wayfinding Tech Makes It Easy to Deliver Transit Info to Customers

Wayfinding — the science of navigation in public spaces and cognitive load — a term used to describe the intellectual pressure that is placed upon a person during decision making situations — are inextricably linked when discussing the successful use of a public transportation network and to understand how they work together...

See More

Post a Comment

Post Comment

Comments (1)

More From The World's Largest Fleet Publisher

Automotive Fleet

The Car and truck fleet and leasing management magazine

Business Fleet

managing 10-50 company vehicles

Fleet Financials

Executive vehicle management

Government Fleet

managing public sector vehicles & equipment

TruckingInfo.com

THE COMMERCIAL TRUCK INDUSTRY’S MOST IN-DEPTH INFORMATION SOURCE

Work Truck Magazine

The number 1 resource for vocational truck fleets

Schoolbus Fleet

Serving school transportation professionals in the U.S. and Canada

LCT Magazine

Global Resource For Limousine and Bus Transportation

Please sign in or register to .    Close