Experts Predict Rising Property Values Along Maryland’s Proposed Light-Rail Purple Line

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Bill is a Montgomery County, Maryland-based writer and PR consultant focused on transportation issues.
July 3, 2013

A Purple Line rendering in Bethesda, Maryland.

Paul Goddin recently commented at Mobility Lab that “real-estate professionals and planners have known for some time that consumers will pay a premium for residential properties” that are walkable, denser, mixed-use, and have transit access to jobs.

A recent study by the American Public Transportation Association and the National Association of Realtors came to the same conclusion.

So the proposed Purple Line light-rail transitway through the Maryland suburbs of Washington D.C. should be a slam dunk, right?  Not so fast.  Even though the 16-mile line from Bethesda through Silver Spring, Langley Park, College Park and into Prince George’s County would take a significant number of cars off the Capital Beltway and connect tens of thousands of people to jobs in suburban Maryland’s largest employment centers, community opposition remains in places like Chevy Chase and East Silver Spring. And there is stiff competition for limited state and federal construction funds from other projects such as the light rail Red Line in Baltimore.

Purple Line critics contend that the proposed Purple Line alignment will have significant environmental and safety impacts on the Capital Crescent hiking/biking trail through Silver Spring, Chevy Chase and Bethesda, and that too many homes will be taken and too much noise created in East Silver Spring. Still other critics question ridership estimates and projections for automobile trip reductions.

But there is strong consensus among D.C. area realtors, transit advocates, and developers that the Purple Line will have a favorable impact on property values.

“While we don’t have specific numbers, all that we have been hearing from developers is that property values along the Purple Line are going to go up,” says Bonnie Casper, immediate past president of the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors.

“It’s a certainty” that property values will rise in communities near Purple Line stations, says Ralph Bennett, president of Purple Line NOW, a coalition of business, labor, environment, neighborhood, and civic organizations. “It’s already happening all along the line, in Chevy Chase Lake, Silver Spring, and University of Maryland.”

“On a station by station basis, any of the major property owners who have development sites near the Purple Line, especially in Prince George’s County, have seen values go up,” says Keith Haller, president of the Purple Rail Alliance, an association of business, civic, and governmental interests in Prince George’s County.

“For planning departments of local governments, Purple Line stations have become priority areas for future development,” says Haller, who is also a board member of Purple Line NOW and who has been active in Purple Line advocacy efforts since 2006.  “Developers don’t have to wait years and years for the zoning process.”

“We’re now in a sector plan process determining zoning for heights and density,” says Miti Figueredo, vice president for public affairs with The Chevy Chase Land Company, developer of the Chevy Chase Lake site near a planned Purple Line stop. “We haven’t done a market study, but all signs point to the fact that people want to live in mixed-use communities near transit. That’s where the demand is.”

“I have very little doubt that the Purple Line will increase property values,” says Gerrit Knaap, a professor at the University of Maryland/College Park and director of the National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education located on the College Park campus. “Wherever information becomes available about where light-rail stations are going to be built, property values begin to increase. This happens long before the system goes into service.”

What is the view of the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) on the issue of rising property values caused by the Purple Line? “We are very familiar with various studies that indicate an expected increase in property values for areas that are within walking distance of rail-transit services, compared to areas without access to a rail station,” says Michael Madden, MTA’s Purple Line project manager. “MTA does not have its own empirical data to support this supposition, but we have no reason to refute it.”

But, notes Madden, “There are many variables to consider and there is no guarantee that this claim will prove to be true in the case of the Purple Line.”

Purple Line advocate Bennett remains optimistic.  “It’s just a question of how fast [property values] will rise, and what the impact will be,” he says.

Do you have an opinion that should be shared? Do you think this is the right kind of transportation-infrastructure development?

Photo by Dan Reed

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