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What Hubway Means for Somerville, Cambridge Real Estate

News broke yesterday that Mayor Menino bambino, the Hubway bike-sharing program, would spread across the Charles to Somerville and Cambridge after the winter. That's obviously good news for cyclists and for commuters in general, as the ready availability of more bikes will take some bodies off the T and out of cars in the mornings and evenings. But could it be good for property owners, too?

There has not been research into whether Hubway in particular boosts or deflates property values in Boston (and research into other bike-sharing programs tends to focus on more general economic impacts, like commuting times and area bike sales). But there has been research on the effects on property of bike paths/lanes, a cousin to bike-sharing programs. Basically, the verdict is that they can only help the value of adjacent or nearby property.

In 2002, the National Association of Realtors and the National Association of Home Builders surveyed 2,000 homebuyers and found that a path for biking, walking or jogging was "the second most important neighborhood amenity" for them, behind only highway access. From a release on the survey at the time:

Gopal Ahluwalia of NAHB said trail access became a popular amenity within the last five years, and possibly before then. "People want walking and jogging trails," he said. "When we do surveys, it ranks up pretty high—in the top five—all the time. The number two ranking of trails was consistent across all regions and demographics of the population."

The University of Delaware in 2006 assessed the effects of three bike paths—in Iowa, Florida and California—and found:

Of those who purchased property along the trails after the trails had been constructed, the majority reported that the trails either had no effect on the property’s appeal or added to its appeal. The vast majority of real estate professionals interviewed felt the trails had no negative effect on property sales adjacent to or near the trails. Trail users and landowners reported that the trails benefited their communities in many ways. Health, fitness, and recreation opportunities were considered the most important benefits by the landowners, and health fitness, aesthetic beauty and good use of undeveloped open space were benefits most sited by users. More intuitive perhaps than any academic research is the hunch that bike lanes and their ilk, including bike-sharing programs, attract the sorts of residents likely to enliven an area (i.e. gentrify it), which explains the change-vs.-status-quo undercurrent that seems to run just beneath the surface of any debate on their installation, whether in Boston or elsewhere (witness the recent newcomers-vs.-old-timers debate over bike lanes in Brooklyn). The Hubway's expansion into Somerville and Cambridge (and maybe Brookline, too!) could be seen as a beachhead for further gentrification. And we all know what gentrification does to home prices and rents.

· Bike Flight [Curbed Boston]
· Property Value/Desirability Effects of Bike Paths Adjacent to Residential Areas [University of Delaware; PDF]
· Mass. Ave Bike Lane Would Eliminate 70 Parking Spots [CBS Boston]
· Bike Lames! Straw Men on 10-Speeds in New York’s Last Culture War [New York Observer]

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