The Streetcars Are Coming and Property Values Will Rise

by Shilpi Paul

Yesterday, Housing Complex got its hands on a 71-page report from the Office of Planning, which analyzes the effects of DC’s eventual streetcar system.

According to the study**, about 72,000 households in the city now located more than a quarter mile from a Metro station would be located that distance or less from a streetcar when the system is fully implemented. To put that in perspective, right now, 22,300 residents in the corridors analyzed by the study live within a quarter mile of a Metro station. We know that renters and buyers are willing to pay more to be close to a Metro; once the streetcars are in place, all sorts of housing stock becomes more desirable.

From the Streetcar Land Use Study

Most interesting to UrbanTurf were the numbers attached to real estate appreciation; the study posits that the system will add $5 to $7 billion to the value of existing property in the corridors analyzed by the study and spark $5 to $8 billion in new development within ten years of completion. Property values and rents will rise by 5 to 12 percent with “values likely to rise even higher in areas that have many prime redevelopment sites.” The report notes that the strongest demand for new and existing development would occur in the following areas: U Street/Logan Circle/Florida Avenue/NoMa/HowardUniversity/western Rhode Island Avenue, H Street/Benning Road, Buzzard Point, Capitol Riverfront, Downtown Anacostia, Takoma Park, and Georgetown.

From the study:

The increases in real estate values and development that the streetcar could spur over a ten-year period—looking only at land within a quarter-mile of new routes—would exceed the projected cost of creating the system [$1.5 billion] by 600% to 1,000%.

The District has already started brainstorming about ways to help lower income residents who find themselves in a neighborhood where property values have appreciated, including encouraging mixed-income development and creating affordable units in garages and basements.

**The area that this analysis covered includes all land within one-quarter mile of the proposed streetcar lines.

See other articles related to: streetcars, dclofts, dc office of planning

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/the_streetcars_are_coming_property_values_will_rise/4986


  1. DC Realtor said at 3:58 pm on Wednesday January 25, 2012:

    This is nonsense Realtors have been selling for years now.

  1. MP said at 4:02 pm on Wednesday January 25, 2012:

    @DC Realtor - I doubt this is nonsense, however, I do wonder how much of those increases in value have already happened since people knew the street cars were coming.  Certainly H St has seen significant increases in home values due to an ongoing revitalization, the question I have is how much of that is due to the street cars?  I would think they made at least made a decent contribution.

  1. StringsAttached said at 4:09 pm on Wednesday January 25, 2012:

    Even if the prices rose due to the knowledge of the upcoming streetcar system, there’s definitely still room to grow.

    @DC Realtor - I don’t understand how this could be nonsense if they get the information from an independent report?

  1. X2Rider said at 4:59 pm on Wednesday January 25, 2012:

    I ride the x2 bus on H street every day for commuting and I don’t see how adding street cars is any different than taking the x2 bus, its practically the same route, getting you to the same new bars and restaurants that the streetcars can get you to. I think its just a waste of money and it is for people who can’t figure out how to ride the bus system. H st has a long way to go, but street cars isn’t what we need.

  1. DC Realtor said at 5:35 pm on Wednesday January 25, 2012:

    It’s nonsense because most of the routes are already regularly serviced by bus anyway and the trolley is really just a Circulator bus on a track. Also, some of the areas where the study says impact will be highest are the H Street Corridor…how much hotter could that area get? Buses run up and down H Street all day and night, the trolley doesnt add much, and the area is already boomed anyway.

  1. hoos30 said at 5:41 pm on Wednesday January 25, 2012:

    Hipsters don’t ride no bus; Hipsters ride bright red streetcar!

  1. SuJay said at 7:00 pm on Wednesday January 25, 2012:

    Who wants UGLY streetcar wires all over the city.  RIDICULOUS!

  1. anon said at 1:13 pm on Thursday January 26, 2012:

    The ‘streetcar as superior to bus’ argument escapes me too.  Do streetcars have some magic ability to bypass traffic and traffic lights?  Even if timed, there’s only so much that can be automated before the real world kicks in.  These aren’t Disney people movers—they’re operating on DC streets with all the dysfunction that entails.  The buses keep a schedule too.

  1. mike84 said at 1:41 pm on Thursday January 26, 2012:

    Have you all never been to a city that has a new, modern streetcar system?  It really is transformational.  Try it before you knock it.

  1. Mark said at 3:25 pm on Thursday January 26, 2012:

    The streetcar will provide more reliable, safer and cheaper transportation than the current bus system:
    1) How many times has a bus pulled over to pick up riders and has taken up multiple lanes? or cut off other vehicles? 
    2)  The environmental impact of an electrically driven streetcar system is far less than the hundreds of fossil fueled busses that roam our city every day.  There are significant health and pollution costs linked to our current bus system. 
    3)  Rail driven transportation is more predictable and thus more reliable.

  1. Jordan said at 4:10 pm on Thursday January 26, 2012:

    AND people are forgetting the most simple and obvious benefit: FIXED transportation such as streetcars attracts development!!!! Bus routes can be changed at the drop of a hat, which is why bus routes do not in and of themselves attract large scale development. If all you detractors think that all the development happening on H all of a sudden is just coincidence, you’re stupid.(http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/mapping_h_street_residential_development/4374)is just

  1. xmal said at 5:57 pm on Thursday January 26, 2012:

    It seems that folks attribute all kinds of magical qualities to streetcars, but they have only two fundamental advantages over buses: lower operating cost and a smoother ride. The lower operating cost stems from less wear and tear as well as a larger capacity = more passengers per driver.

    Anything that would make them faster than current Metrobuses (dedicated lanes, traffic light preemption, level boarding, prepayment) are external to the streetcar technology and could just as well be applied to buses with similar results.

    For an illustration, let’s take a look at Mark’s list:
    1) Streetcars don’t take up multiple lanes—-Nice for the drivers behind it, but irrelevant to the riders. Conversely, what if a car stops on the tracks? In this situation, the streetcar is inconvenienced much more than a bus.
    2) Electrical power is cleaner—-You can electrify buses also (as SF and Vancouver do), but given that 50% of our generating mix is coal, I think the results may not be so cut-and-dried.
    3) Rail is more predictable—-This expectation may be due to previous experience with Metrorail, but DC streetcars will be for the most part on-street, so I cannot see how they will be any more predictable than Metrobuses today.

    Back to the development issue, since streetcars do not provide any speed advantage over buses, only capacity and comfort, the additional density/development will have to come from people that cannot currently fit on the bus and people that just looove streetcars. How big is that market? Not as big as Metrorail, certainly, and probably not as big as OP makes it out to be.

    For more nuance than I was able to put into this response, please check out:

  1. Sunny Florida Avenue said at 7:19 pm on Thursday January 26, 2012:

    Y’all know the bus sucks, why are you lying to yourselves? Just hating for the sake of it, I suppose.

  1. Hstreet bus rider said at 1:35 pm on Friday January 27, 2012:

    Even if the difference between a bus ride and street car ride us minimal there are lots of people who dont/won’t use a bus. The bus system takes a little time to learn especially if you have grown up in suburban middle america as many newcomers to our area have. A lot if people just won’t do it. you can’t change that. So cater to them. to get them to live in a non metro part of dc, that isn’t gtown or adams morgan you have to change their perception that an area is located next to transportation. An ad campaign won’t do this. A street car will. It’s too bad it has to come to that. It wil still be worth it even if they overestimate the benefits six fold

  1. H[ello] said at 5:34 pm on Friday January 27, 2012:

    Streetcars are cool, buses are not.  Buses are lumbering behemoths, streetcars are time machines.  WHAT is so hard to understand? 

    And “how much hotter could [H Street Corridor] get”??  Well, most of H is still a wreck, and there’s no good retail there whatsoever, so let’s hope it gets a heck of a lot hotter…

  1. DC Joe said at 11:55 pm on Sunday January 29, 2012:

    Look at Philadelphia and Baltimore City, they both have streetcars and last time I checked University City (Philly) housing prices were still low.

    Housing prices in DC are a function of government jobs, Universities, and Associations/Non-profits. The increase in prices for a neighborhood in DC is usually due to revitalization/gentrification. There are no street cars in Columbia Heights but prices there increased tremendously after the was an effort by DC gov to revitalize this area.

    Screw streetcars; what will really effect DC housing prices will be if those defense cuts go into effect on Jan 1st 2013. Contractors are already laying off employees in preparation.

    If you think Streetcars will determine housing prices…....well, I have a house in Philadelphia you might be interested in.

  1. anon said at 12:45 pm on Wednesday February 1, 2012:

    @xmal—that’s the sanest and most rational arguement on streetcars I’ve heard to date. I can also see the argument from @Jordan for a fixed route, although you could argue it’s also an inflexible route to responds to changes in demand.

    @Mark more and more WMATA buses running on natural gas, and the environmental impact of even less efficient fossil fuels is far lower than the car trip equivalents when taken to scale.  Whatever gains the streetcars provide will be comparatively modest.  Bus transit = mass transit = green.  Buses aren’t the problem.

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