Another Beneficiary of Urban Transit Systems: Suburban Homeowners

Mass transit is seen as being beneficial to urbanite users of the systems themselves.  This leads to non-users wondering why transit funding is set up so that they have to chip in (through various taxes and fees) for something that only users benefit from. 

Except that non-users gain from the existence, investment in, and smooth operation of mass transit systems.  My firm just completed a study for SEPTA (see Inky coverage here, and I believe there will be a story in the paper later this morning) in which we found that proximity to a SEPTA station conferred an aggregate $6 billion in property value gain (per household average ~$8,000) in the four suburban counties outside of Philadelphia.  In other words, absent the mobility made possible by being close to a SEPTA station, property values would drop by $6 billion in these suburban counties. 

If anything, this very large number is an understatement.  Think about what would happen if SEPTA service disappeared in the suburbs.  Not only would these station-proximate locations lose their premium value, but the region's highways would clog up from all the extra traffic, leading to lost productivity and increased pollution, to say nothing of our collective blood pressure hitting the roof. 

You'll not find a bigger capitalist pig than me.  And yet transportation is not a pure private activity.  Financing it therefore ought to have some broader public element to it, since its gains are similarly broadly spread, reaching even to suburbanites who never themselves use it. 

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