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The T Fare Hikes, Service Cuts and Hub Property Values

With the T changes afoot, we dug around to see what affect they could have on property values and therefore property decisions like buying, selling and renting. Will those who own near whatever T stop see their property values drop because of the extra 30 to 50 cents per ride? Will Quincy residents, too, because of the end of weekend ferry service? In other words, in the light of all eternity, does it really matter to buyers, sellers and tenants if public transit costs go up or service is cut? The answer, sexily enough, is kind of but not really.

The National Association of Realtors did a report [PDF] on the value of proximity to public transit, with an eye toward new development. The report found that: "The amount of the 'transit premium'—value added to property by proximity to high-capacity transit—may vary significantly depending a number of factors." No surprise there. But the swings are significant: In San Diego, property within 200 feet of a light-rail station gets a single-family owner a 2 percent property-value bump; in St. Louis, 32 percent within 100 feet.

It also all depends on the culture of a community, whether it actually takes public transit. Some cities and towns have the equivalent of phantom buses, big, beautiful, rumbling, environmentally friendly canisters that transport very few people at one time. The Hub, obviously, is not one of these communities. The T has been running at record capacity as of late and several generations now have grown up with it. It's something that sells the area's economy to outsiders (and helps explain the cacophonous debate over the service cuts and fare hikes).

So proximity can matter in property values, though not that much. But what about the cost of public transit to the consumer? Do fare increases affect property values? Nah. It's proximity that counts. And, as the Realtors' report notes, public transit routes and costs are subject to change (tell us about it); the stations and stops, much less so.

A final caveat: If gas prices ever drop—and stay—below $2 a gallon, everything changes.

· Public Transit Boosts Property Values If Conditions Are Right [NAR]