Streetcar Study: Could We Get the System For Free?
Finally, finally the Office of Planning has released the full results of their streetcar land use study, which details the projected effects on all 37 miles of the system that's been planned so far (I've been asking for it since a short version dropped last May). I'm still digesting the whole thing, which goes into a bit more detail about how the different routes would tie in to their neighborhoods—kind of an answer to the Committee of 100's evaluation of the whole system.
Perhaps the most important part, given that nothing happens without money, is the analysis of how the system might get paid for. According to consulting firm Goody Clancy's analysis, benefits from real estate investment spurred by the streetcar would cover 40 to 60 percent of the $1.5 billion construction cost.
Here's the breakdown: Anticipating between 5 and 7 percent appreciation in property values along the streetcar corridors, tax increment financing districts could support the sale of $300 to $400 million in bonds. Then, they figure on between $5 billion and $8 billion in streetcar-spurred development over ten years, half the tax value of which could allow the sale of another $300 million to $500 million worth of bonds.
Alternatively, you could just ask local property owners and business improvement districts to kick in the money up front, since streetcar routes would increase the value of some properties by $20 to $40 per developable square foot.
Add that to the potential of up to 50 percent funding from the federal government, and we've got ourselves a streetcar system for basically free!
If only it were that simple.
Disappointingly, the "next steps" section doesn't really talk about what should happen next, like a new agency for planning purposes, or a citizen advisory commission. But considering some bumps in the road lately, if this 71-page infomercial for all the streetcar's benefits can keep the momentum rolling, it will have done its job.
Office of Planning director Harriet Tregoning will talk about the study tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. at the National Building Museum.
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