Interesting piece in the Wall Street Journal (sub req.) on Sunday raised a sacreligious question: are the billions we are spending on light rail really worth it, especially real-estate wise? Los Angeles and other auto-heavy Sunbelt cities such as Phoenix, Denver and Charlotte, N.C., are building out expensive light rail systems costing billions of dollars, funded by sales taxes and federal dollars. Urban experts tell us light rail encourages dense development, helps unclog traffic arteries, and boosts real estate values and development at station points. And of course, it’s so green.

In fact,

A 2014 study of the Phoenix area’s light-rail system co-written by Arizona State University professor Michael Kuby showed an increase in residential and commercial property values after the system was introduced, extending more than a mile from stations.

But not so in Charlotte, where a 2012 study of property values near the light-rail system stations there produced a “mixed bag of results.” Apparently a few high end developers put up some fancy digs near the stations that would have been built anyhow. As for creating a real estate boom, light rail may be like robbing Peter to pay Paul: just pilfers real estate values from another part of the city:

Randal O’Toole, a transportation and land use expert for the conservative Cato Institute, said he believes local governments are investing in light rail only “because the federal government is offering money for it.” If proximity to transit lines does boost property values, “it does so at the expense of values somewhere else in the same city or urban area,” he said.

Of course, we have a DART station on Central Expressway at CityPlace. And what do we have across from it? A big box Sam’s Club. Yeah, don’t get me started. Haskell is becoming a whole new world. But no, we couldn’t have some mixed-use something with housing, developer went for the quick buck. (more…)