Maybe you don't want to live IN a subway car, but it sure is handy to live near one. And most of us seem willing to pay for the convenience: A number of studies have found that home values increase the closer you get to a public transit station, and can even hold up better in a downturn.
Now, real estate brokerage Redfin has pinpointed just how much a one-point increase in a home's Transit Score — which reflects the proximity, usefulness, and frequency of nearby mass transit routes — increases a home's value. After studying more than 1 million sales records in 14 American metro areas, Redfin found that a one-point increase in Transit Score could boost a home's price by $2,040, or 0.6%, on average.
The presence of mass transit price premium was consistent, but the amount varied by city. In the Boston area, a one-point transit advantage was worth an extra $3,585, or a 1.1% bump. In San Francisco, getting one point closer to the BART was good for an extra $4,845, or a 0.51% increase. In one unique area, though - Orange County, Calif. — a higher Transit Score actually decreased a home's value, albeit by a negligible amount: a 0.03% drop worth $203.
Experimenting with my own neighborhood and some others around Boston, I found that my Transit Score would increase by one point if I got 500 feet (0.1 mile) closer to a subway station.
Of course, that typically got me 500 feet closer to everything else, too. I have to imagine another reason behind the transit price premium is that commerce naturally develops along these routes and vice versa: Shops, restaurants, bars, and other businesses tend to cluster near popular train stations, just as those stations were often built to connect already vibrant neighborhood centers. As important as an easy commute is, many people also want to live close to the action.
The funny thing is, while we value public transportation enough to pay a premium to live near it, Americans as a whole aren't all that eager to cough up the dough needed to fund mass transit.
A review of public polling on the subject found Americans approve of public transit spending in theory, but most don't support extra taxes to actually fund that investment. "Strong majorities of people believed that transit brings a number of specific benefits to their community… and strong majorities also support improvements to transit as a general concept," according to the study. "However, fewer people support raising spending on transit as a concept, and definitely less than one-half support raising any specific tax to raise transit funding, except for sales taxes, which usually enjoy majority support."
Like anything else in America these days, this may come down to a clash between urban and rural perspectives. While city residents and nearby commuters may see the value public transit brings to their lives and even fork over more money to have it nearby, people who live far beyond the last rail stop are quite understandably less inclined to pay for something they'll never use.
So: How much would you pay to live 500 feet closer to the subway or a useful bus route?