28 August 2008

Streetcar Study: "Economically Worthwhile"

Reported in the Business Courier:

A plan for a four-mile streetcar loop in Cincinnati has been vindicated by University of Cincinnati researcher George Vredeveld and associates, the university said Wednesday.

“The proposed streetcar system is economically worthwhile,” Vredeveld said in a news release.

Vredeveld said [consulting firm] HDR was “in the ballpark” with its average estimate of a $315.8 million economic impact over 35 years, and a conservative estimate of $186.8 million over that period.

And from HDR's publication Trends in Transit Financing: Using Local Funds for Streetcars:

It's difficult for streetcar systems to qualify for Federal Transit Authority funding because the criteria are focused on travel time savings for suburban commuters, not the need for effective downtown circulation. As a result, sponsors increasingly look to alternative methods of financing using local resources.

A startup first-phase streetcar line two to three miles in length (four to six track miles) can be expected to cost between $50 million and $100 million. If the line is strategically located, it may be possible to raise this amount entirely from local resources due to the strong real estate, business, tax generation, cost avoidance/savings and other benefits that can accrue along the line.

Existing property will increase in value, and key destination points will provide more incentive for new development, particularly residential growth. Routing should also access potential redevelopment areas, where urban redevelopment can be unlocked or enhanced through good urban circulation.

The presence of the line can be conservatively anticipated to increase the value of [property within three blocks] by at least 10 percent, even before factoring in new development. The jump in valuation might be two to three times the original cost of the line. Over the course of a decade or more the streetcar could add billions of dollars worth of new development.

From the mixed news dept.: The FTA is reviewing its funding criteria to consider streetcar ("Small Starts") systems but the final rules are probably 3-5 years away. Should Cincy wait a few years for FTA funding or go it alone and start building asap?

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