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Central Avenue BRT: National study shows proximity to transit spurs higher property values

Megan Holmes

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Last week, City Council unanimously passed the final components of the Central Avenue Bus Rapid Transit Interlocal Agreement, bringing the Central Avenue BRT project one step closer to its projected opening to riders in late 2020/early 2021. Council also approved a Participation Agreement with PSTA and Forward Pinellas for the development of a federally-funded transit-oriented development (TOD) strategic plan for the Central Avenue Corridor. 

A new study suggests that the Central Avenue BRT route could prove to be an asset not just for public transit, but for increasing property values in close proximity to the route, bolstering the case for transit-oriented development along the Central Avenue Corridor, which seeks to maximize dense, walkable, mixed-use development near transit.

According to a study commissioned by the National Association of Realtors and the American Public Transportation Association, the value of both residential and commercial properties located within a half mile of public transit service outperformed those further away.

Conducted in seven metropolitan areas including Boston, Mass.; Eugene, Ore.; Hartford, Conn; Los Angeles, Calif.; Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.; Phoenix, Ariz; and Seattle, Wash; the study showed that between 2012 and 2016, residential properties near transit increased in median sale price between 4 to 24 percentage points above properties further from transit. Commercial properties saw gains between 5 and 42 percentage points. 

In that same time across the seven regions, more than 43,500 residential units were added in close proximity to transit. The study also showed that households located in transit-oriented neighborhoods experienced lower transportation costs – saving between $2,500 and $4,400 annually – and 25 percent of those households did not own a vehicle. 

Central Avenue Bus Rapid Transit Route

The Central Avenue BRT project is expected to be the first federally funded major transit project in Tampa Bay, connecting downtown St. Petersburg to St. Pete Beach with faster service and fewer stops than the Central Avenue Trolley. BRT would cut the current 55-minute one-way service to just 35 minutes. It is expected to form the bedrock for future Tampa Bay transit improvements, eventually connecting St. Petersburg and Pinellas County to Downtown Tampa and Tampa International Airport. 

The Central Avenue BRT project has found strong support from the City of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County, as well as the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce and the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce. But it has been formally opposed by the City of South Pasadena and St. Pete Beach, two cities integral to the BRT route. 

“This study confirms what we have believed for a long time; that property near transit is more valuable,” said Matt Lettelleir, Advocacy Manager at the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce. “We look forward to continued conversations to develop solutions to increase property values, reduce travel times, and lower transportation costs for our residents and visitors.”

The project is estimated to cost $43.9 million dollars to complete. Funds will come from a mix of sources, including $10.5 million from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), $7.6 million from the PSTA, and $4 million from the city of St. Pete. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is expected to approve the final funding piece, a $21.8 million Capital Investment Grant, later this year.

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