Development Near Transit Too Pricey? Build More Transit

Charlotte, North Carolina’s new Lynx light rail system has proven to be tremendously popular. So popular that as each new rail segment is built out, it has spurred a boom in real estate development. The result has been an urbanist’s dream of transit-oriented growth in many ways — density, mixed uses, walkability.

Commuters pile onto Charlotte's popular light rail. Photo: Trains.com

Mary Newsom, a columnist with an urbanist bent at the Charlotte Observer, has taken issue with the scale of new development near Lynx, saying the tall buildings and high prices drive out small businesses.

According to Network blog The Overhead Wire, however, Charlotte’s problem isn’t the height of its new buildings, it’s that the pace of transit-oriented development isn’t sufficient to meet demand:

You want to know why that property becomes so valuable? Because it is scarce! Contrary to popular belief, there is not enough supply of urban housing to meet the demand, so the speculators come in and jack up the prices.

Given that Charlotte is building its system line by line, you’ll see development speculation and value increases acting as a release valve on the downtown market. If you built all the lines at once, that pressure gets relieved five or six ways instead of one way.

So if regions are feeling for local businesses and the skyrocket land values around transit, the escape valve that creates greater opportunities in places that want to change is to build greater transit networks. More escape valves means greater distribution of different development and less pressure and speculation.

The Overhead Wire goes on to theorize that Denver and Houston, which are building multiple transit lines simultaneously, will see more affordable development near the new stations.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Psystenance suggests that the language we use to identify people who use different types of transportation may be hurting the movement for a multi-modal system. Spacing Toronto condemns a proposal to build a tunnel for car traffic, pointing out that the money might be better spent improving the city’s light rail and and local bus service, which are currently the modes of choice for a majority most commuters to the city. And The Infrastructurist admires the work of German photographer Christoph Gielen, whose captivating aerial images of sprawl were recently featured in the New York Times.