|Light Rail Attracts Greater Development
A recent article in the Charlotte Observer indicated that the Charlotte Trolley has already fostered $625 million dollars in new construction and announced projects along its route in the past three years. This already exceeds the $500 million trolley supporters told the city council it would generate when they lobbied for $19.7 million to complete the line through
the uptown area. This would be amazing in itself if it were not for the fact the line is still over a year away from completion through the uptown area. The final figure should be far higher than the $625 million figure. With this in mind we think it should lay to rest the fears expressed by at least two city councilmen that the $19.7 million was a waste of the taxpayer's money.
Not only will the city's investment in the Trolley be returned in the form of a larger tax base and increased tax revenue, but the Trolley will serve as a great tourist attraction for Charlotte, helping increase restaurant and night life business and creating many new employment opportunities. Many new condominiums and town houses have sprung up along the Trolley right-of-way, as the area is now becoming one of the most desirable places in the city to live and work.
Some would like to deny the Trolley and the prospect of future light rail is in great part responsible for this development. Tara Servatius, writing in the Charlotte Leader, recently wrote an article, which suggests most of this development would have occurred anyway, it just happened to be next to the Trolley corridor. She is the same reporter who brought us the story about how light rail was mowing down pedestrians in Portland, Oregon (see "Is Light Rail Too Quite?" on page 4). We will have more to say about the suggestion the Trolley was not largely responsible for this development in a future article.
We think now might be a good time to think in the broader sense. If the Trolley can do this much in such a short time lets think about what light rail could do for the corridors it might run through. Other cities have already experienced the benefits light rail can bring. Portland, for example, has seen a large increase in development and retail business along its light rail line to Gresham, and expects similar development along its new line to Hillsboro. Cities such as San Diego and St. Louis have also seen renewed interest in areas along their light rail lines. The amount of activity varies from city to city, however we think a credible argument might be made that a large part of the difference in cost between busways and light rail may be made up by the greater degree of private investment and economic activity that occurs by building light rail.
Therefore, we think our city officials, as well as our transit planners, need to look carefully at this important factor when considering which mode of transit to choose in our designated transit corridors.