An inventory of real estate development projects in Greater Cleveland measured by the nonprofit educational organization All Aboard Ohio shows that since 2012 more than $5.5 billion worth of investment has been or is being made within 2,000 feet of rail transit or Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) stations. Some of these investments, mostly by the private sector, were attracted or at least physically shaped in terms of their design by the presence of a nearby rail/BRT station. All of the developments will benefit transit users and boost ridership numbers thanks to their proximity to the more than 100 rail/BRT stations of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, said Ken Prendergast, Executive Director of All Aboard Ohio which promotes improvements to rail and public transportation in Ohio.
A graphics-laden copy of our inventory is available HERE.
“All major cities in Ohio and across the nation are seeing significant investments in their urban cores, especially around fixed-guideway transit,” Prendergast said. “In fact our real estate inventory will soon be out of date based on recent news. This is part of a trend that began before the recession when Baby Boomers began retiring and downsizing while Millennials began looking for communities that support low-mileage lifestyles. Miles-driven per capita has declined every year since 2004 and is now at its lowest level since 1996. City populations are rising faster than suburban populations for the first time since the 1920s; this includes Cleveland’s urban core as well.”
Factors involved in this tectonic shift are decades of improvements to cities’ infrastructure, amenities and safety, in addition to changes in personal preferences regarding housing and lifestyles, as well as personal incomes failing to keep up with costs of living. We are in the early part of this shift as the Baby Boomers started hitting 65 years old in 2011 and the Millennials are beginning to move out of their parents’ homes. The Baby Boomers and the Millennials are the two largest generations in history.
Prendergast noted that Greater Cleveland is the best place in Ohio where a transit-supportive development inventory can be estimated as it is the only metro area in Ohio with rail transit and BRT services. Five rail spokes totaling 39 route-miles fan outward from the Tower City hub in downtown Cleveland. The city also has the 7-mile-long HealthLine BRT that opened in 2008 on the city’s east side and the 4-mile West Shore Express is under construction on Clifton Boulevard on the city’s west side. Some 53,000 riders each weekday ride Cleveland rapid transit lines.
Cleveland won’t be Ohio’s only rail/BRT city for long. Two years of construction is halfway done for the modern, 3.6-mile Cincinnati Streetcar route linking downtown and Over-The-Rhine. Real estate investments are now being made along the streetcar’s route. Meanwhile, Columbus is in advanced planning for the 15.6-mile Cleveland Avenue BRT to address standing room-only conditions on buses linking downtown and Polaris Parkway.
All Aboard Ohio conducted the inventory of Greater Cleveland’s transit-supportive developments to give a real-world example of why more public investment in higher-level public transportation is needed in cities throughout Ohio. Fixed guideway transit (subways, light-rail, streetcars, BRT etc) attracts real estate investor interest because the guideway and stations cannot be easily moved, unlike bus routes and bus stops. Fixed transit facilities give developers the confidence that the transit service will continue to exist for decades and thus provide a marketable asset, a source of customers and a return on investment for years to come. The presence of fixed guideway transit provides a high volume of potential customers and the opportunity to provide mixed use, density and larger revenue streams. Public transportation can save users more than $10,000 per year, allowing tenants to spend more for better housing, more dining out, entertainment, shopping, education and health care.
“While some urban developments would have occurred without transit,” Prendergast added, “the presence of rail and BRT increasingly affects how developments are designed and where they are placed. So instead of putting developments in bunkers with blank walls far from the street behind a sea of parking, Transit-Oriented Development is pedestrian-friendly. It has windows, doors and light along the sidewalk. The first floor often features cafes, retail or other publicly accessible uses, and parking is placed to the side of the building, behind it or in a deck. The benefit is that everyone can safely and comfortably access the building regardless of whether they walk, bike, ride transit or drive there.”