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Transit gives Dallas area a ride to economic growth

Transit gives Dallas area a ride to economic growth

At FTA, the Dallas-Fort Worth area has become one of our favorite places to talk about. Why? Because in the last 30 years, Dallas has gone from zero miles to the most miles of light rail in operation, anywhere in North America. We can add to that growth the accompanying billions of dollars in economic activity, the tens of thousands of jobs it has created , and the increased property values brought about by expanding transit in North Texas.

So, if a conference I attended last week called "Texans Do Use Transit" seems like a pipe dream, it's not. Texans do use transit. It's a fact--known and measurable. And in addition to using transit to get to jobs, medical services and other destinations, North Texas is using its investment in transit to boost economic growth. Texans don’t just use transit, they thrive on it. And not just in Dallas; transit expansion is also happening right now in San Antonio, El Paso, Brownsville, and Houston.

And two studies released by the University of North Texas (UNT) last month confirm it.  According to UNT, the $4.7 billion spent between 2002 and 2013 to expand light-rail generated $7.4 billion in economic activity and created $3.3 billion in salaries, wages, and benefits from tens of thousands of jobs.

Photo of DART transit work

That period includes the recent recession. As Terry Clower, director of UNT's Center for Economic Development and Research, affirmed, "Even through difficult economic times, DART has demonstrated its ability to boost the North Texas economy through its capital spending, daily operations, and attracting private investment."

And once stations are built and operational, the economic benefits continue to flow. A second UNT study released at the end of January indicates that, "More than $5.3 billion in private-capital transit-oriented development projects have been built, are under construction, or are planned near Dallas Area Rapid Transit's light rail stations."

Photo of Therese McMillan visiting DART

What's attracting this development? DART riders. The UNT study shows that office properties located within 1/4 mile of a DART station earn an average 13.9 percent increase in lease rates. Areas surrounding DART stations outperformed comparable locations in property value as well, totaling more than $1.5 billion in valuation compared with roughly $600 million in the control areas.

Those properties include single and multi-family residential development with green space, retail and office space, and industrial sites--all of the land uses that help make a community a community. As property values climb, DART and the City of Dallas have also worked to make affordable housing part of their vision. By partnering with HUD and other organizations, they are ensuring that residents who live along transit routes aren’t priced out of their homes.

Even better? As the Dallas region continues to grow, DART continues to expand its miles of service and add new stations. In addition to better access to good transit, that also means more jobs, more investment, and more economic growth.

That's what can happen when we choose to invest in transit, and it's getting the attention of communities across America. The need to invest in transportation is clear. The benefits of investing in transportation are clear; at FTA, we're working to bring those benefits to your community.

Therese McMillan is Deputy Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration.

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