Phoenix residents have repeatedly voiced their support for the city’s light rail, and according to a recent study, they’re also willing to pay more to live near a station.
Home prices climbed 56% around light rail hubs in metro Phoenix, compared to 40% in other parts of the Valley between 2012 and 2016, according to a new report from The American Public Transportation Association and National Association of Realtors.
The organizations worked together to study the impact of public transit on real estate values in seven U.S. metro areas, including Phoenix.
The city’s light rail line, Valley Metro Rail, opened in 2008 with 35 stations serving Phoenix, Mesa, and Tempe. Since then, more than $11 billion has been spent on development along the Valley’s light rail line, creating 50 million square feet of housing, office, shopping, hotel, school and government space, according to Valley Metro.
This investment has paid dividends; at least for the 109,597 people and 45,561 households who lived within a half-mile of Phoenix light-rail stations in 2016. These individuals haven’t only seen their property values increase, they’ve also saved $3,227 a year per household, according to the report.
Some of these savings come from the fact that individuals living near light rail stations are far more likely to use it to go to work; about 21% of people who live near light rail use it, walk, or bike to get to work, compared to only 5% of people living outside the transit hubs, the study found.
Because they have better access to public transit, residents near light rail stations also have fewer vehicles per households and 22% of households don’t own a vehicle at all. The result is more walkable communities and smaller block sizes — a major goal of the city’s “Reinvent PHX” plan.
Homes near the 38th Street/Washington Station in Phoenix saw the highest increase in value, rising by 201% from 2012 to 2016.
Among the organizations most responsible for the success of Phoenix’s light rail system is the Sustainable Communities Collaborative, a nonprofit partnership of more than 35 groups and governments created in 2011 to support housing and redevelopment near light rail.
The Arizona Republic reports that the organization filled more than 25 vacant lots along the rail line. “There wasn’t really any development going on in the urban core besides what we were doing, and it started a movement that has changed the Valley and drawn many big developers,” Shannon Scutari, an Arizona growth expert who helped lead Sustainable Communities, told the Republic.
The projects they invested in helped attract renters, homebuyers, visitors and businesses. As a result, there are now 294,313 jobs that are accessible within a 30-minute commute of light rail in metro Phoenix.
The success and growth of Phoenix’s light rail and the areas around it come despite a sustained attack on the system from the Koch brothers and anti-light-rail lawmakers. While these groups have had some success in killing light rail in cities like Nashville and Little Rock, Phoenix residents have proven more supportive of light rail.
The city is also something of a unicorn; it was one of only three American cities to see its public transit ridership increase from 2016 to 2017.
While ridership dipped a bit in 2018, Phoenix residents doubled down on the system in August, with an overwhelming 67% voting to continue financing the city’s expanding light-rail system.
And if the report from the American Public Transportation Association and National Association of Realtors is any indication, such an expansion will continue to be a boon for those living near transit hubs.