Well-timed study says living near SEPTA is money
SEPTA may be in a funding fight for its life, and if they lose, don’t say they didn’t go down swinging. The Authority recently commissioned a study to show the effect of access to regional rail on the prices of suburban houses. It’s pretty much a naked attempt to prove their worth to the southeastern part of the state outside the city, and it may be just what Pennsylvania’s largest mass transit system needs right now.
That study, the results of which were released yesterday, found houses located near Regional Rail stations are worth anywhere from $31,100 to $37,300 more than similar suburban homes over three miles from a station.
Titled “The Impacts of SEPTA Regional Rail Service on Suburban House Prices,” the study was paid for with $5,000 of the Authority’s cash and conducted independently by Econsult Solutions, Inc., which is based in Philadelphia. It looked at house transactions between 2005 and 2012 in the five county area, excluding the city, to come up with its conclusions.
The point of the study is clear: If the so-called “Doomsday” budget SEPTA has been toying with happens, it won’t just negatively affect inner-city dwellers who ride from drug deal to flash mob on welfare buses (which is what some legislators in Pennsylvania would have their constituents believe), but the upper-crust suburbanites of Merion and Doylestown would suffer immensely. Pushing the Go button on SEPTA’s doomsday would create a $6 billion aggregate property loss in the burbs, according to the study.
Nine of the 13 regional rail lines would shut down in the given scenario and, conceivably, the property surrounding all of them would decrease in price, adding to an already wounded suburban housing market that hasn’t fully recovered since the 2008 crash.
What could stop the Doomsday budget? A Transportation funding bill. SEPTA’s release of this poll at this time is an obvious, not-subtle and gigantic wink in the direction of the state Legislature to debate and pass a $2.5 billion bill by year’s end. SEPTA says the funds are needed, in part, due to four years of continued reduced funding from the state.
Passed by the Senate in June, the Transportation bill was stalled in the more-conservative Pennsylvania House, at which point it was revealed some rural legislators and their constituents felt it was unfair to have to fund buses in Philadelphia, which they would never use. State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) even likened “your buses,” as he called SEPTA, to “welfare.”
Before the recent study was conducted, transportation proponents sometimes noted the Greater Philadelphia area represents the largest single portion of economic activity in the commonwealth. Cutting off residents from their most efficient commute to work would have a negative effect on the state’s larger economy.
SEPTA’s shrinkage wouldn’t happen immediately if the bill fails to pass the House. Rather, lines would be shut down and, in some cases within the city, replaced over three, five, 10, or more, years. New Silverliner V cars would actually be retired by 2023—and a lot can happen between now and then. Like, say, new people being elected, leading, and eventually governing in Harrisburg.
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