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For once I might pretend to be professional

June 30, 2011

But don’t expect it to be a trend or anything. I’ll be ranting again soon.

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Center for Transportation Excellence conference in St. Louis regarding transit policy and the community. This is basically a meeting to teach transit advocates how to sell transit to the general population, because, let’s face it, not everyone loves transit like you, dear reader, or I. So I’m going to take what I learned and turn it into a series of posts on the argument for transit by a transit advocate for the not so transit advocates.

Lesson one: hit them in the pocket books. Or wallet. Whatever.

Words like sustainability and livable communities don’t mean much and conservative run as soon as you start talking about environmentalism. So what do you talk about, then? What could possibly make someone who doesn’t ride a bus think transit is a good thing to throw their tax dollars at?

Economic development.

ULI ran an article this week about a few housing markets that have seen an uptick in activity. When I saw the headline, I thought to myself, I bet those cities have recent transit investments.

The ULI post referenced a recent article in Building magazine, which recently released it’s Healthy Markets Index for 2011 examining home sales and pricing along with single and multiple-family building permits in metro areas to determine the health of the housing market. These factors are combined with population, job, and income growth to provide the Market Health Indicator score.

Based on this score, the top ten metro areas expected to experience on average a 50% growth on average this year are:

1. Raleigh, NC
2. Austin, TX
3. Durham/ Chapel Hill, NC
4. Minneapolis/ St.Paul, MN
5. Houston, TX
6. Charlotte, NC
7. San Antonio, TX
8. Washington, DC
9. Dallas, TX
10. Birmingham, AL

Other than the fact that the vast majority of these housing markets are in the south, they also have in common recent investments and developments in public transportation. Of the top ten cities, all but Birmingham have either voted to fund, received funding, is currently building or have opened a rail or BRT line in the last four years. The North Carolina Piedmont Commuter line from Charlotte through Durham to Raleigh added a new trip last year and announced additional state funding in March of this year. Austin and Minneapolis have both recently began commuter service in 2010 and 2009 respectively. Minneapolis also began it’s light rail service in 2004.

Charlotte and Dallas boast new light rail service and Houston is currently expanding it’s light rail with an additional two lines slated to be completed in 2013. San Antonio recently received a substaintial federal grant to begin light rail service and will begin bus rapid transit service on the light rail corridor next year. Rounding out the list, Washington is both expanding heavy rail and building a streetcar network.

This is by no means a scientific study, but the relationship can’t be ignored. Transit projects create jobs and can stimulate economic development. Who can’t be behind that?

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