Generating Economic Development
Capital investment in the DART Light Rail System has generated billions in regional economic activity and transit-oriented development. Two studies released in January, both conducted by the Center for Economic Development and Research at the University of North Texas, examine the build-out's economic impact.
"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," said Terry L. Clower, Ph.D., the center's director.
Expansion bolsters the economyDART's capital spending between 2003 and 2013 was almost $5.63 billion, or $4.7 billion in inflation-adjusted 2013 dollars. In the 11-year period studied, the agency grew the light rail network from 44 miles and 34 stations to 85 miles and 61 stations, and made DART Rail the longest light rail system in the country.
The expansion to date has generated $7.4 billion in regional economic activity, creating more than 54,000 person-years of employment that paid in excess of $3.3 billion in salaries, wages and benefits.
To encompass the completion of the Orange Line to DFW Airport later this year and the Blue Line extension in southern Dallas in 2016, the researchers extended the analysis time line to consider future capital spending through FY 2017. They estimate that the total light rail expansion program will exceed $5.6 billion in cost, expressed in 2013 inflation-adjusted dollars.
The expansion ultimately will boost regional economic activity by almost $8.8 billion, increase labor income by $3.9 billion, and support more than 63,700 person-years of employment - an average of about 4,250 jobs per year for 15 years. Total state and local government revenues associated with this spending will approach $281 million.
Rail attracts billions in developmentMore than $5.3 billion in private-capital transit-oriented development projects have been built, are under construction, or are planned near DART's light rail stations since the debut of DART Rail in 1996.
The Center for Economic Development and Research evaluated properties within 0.25 mile of a DART Rail station and found that new commercial developments built between 1993 and 2013 totaled more than $1.5 billion in valuation, compared with roughly $600 million in control areas. Estimated tax contributions for new development exceeded $36 million annually, which is more than twice the $14 million estimated in the control group areas.
Developers have announced plans to build roughly $3.8 billion in projects deliberately located near DART Rail over the next decade. If completed, more than 8,500 multifamily units, as well as several million square feet of office and retail space, will arrive near DART stations. The estimate of DART-attributable investment is a moving target, and researchers intend to update the figure as more information becomes available or new projects are announced.
Researchers also documented that offices located within the quarter-mile radius of DART Rail stations command an average 13.9 percent higher rental rate than comparable properties with highway-only access.
"The positive impact of DART Rail on office construction and lease rates is directly correlated to tenant demand for walkable developments and transit options," said DART Chief Financial Officer David Leininger. "Proximity to DART is a marketing advantage for recruiting talent."
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