March 2012 Featured Article
Increased Walkability May Mean Increased Property Values
Now that spring is around the corner, many people start to enjoying the great outdoors again! What better way to do this than take a walk or a bicycle ride in your neighborhood. It costs nothing, it has no impact on our environment and it provides heart healthy exercise!
Did you know that having a walkable community may also increase your property values? In a recent study by Joseph Cartright titled “Walking the Walk: How Walkability Raises Housing Values in U.S. Cities”, Cartright analyzed data from 94,000 real estate transactions in 15 major markets provided by ZIPRealty. He found that in 13 out of 15 markets, higher levels of walkability, as measured by a “Walk Score”, were directly linked to higher home values. In New Jersey where approximately 247.9 million passenger trips are taken per year on New Jersey Transit alone, walkability is paramount for quality of life and clearly can increase our home values. During a time when bicycle and pedestrian funding is being questioned in Washington’s partisan debate in an effort to draft new transportation legislation, legislation that is long overdue since SAFTEY-LU expired in 2008, arguments that bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure is not important for economic development is just not warranted.
Cartight’s report states that “homes located with close proximity to common daily shopping and social destinations, commanded a premium price over otherwise similar homes in less walkable areas. Houses with the above average levels of walkability command a premium of about $4,000 to $34,000 over houses with just average levels of walkability in the typical metropolitan area studied”. Findings were even more relevant within close proximity to public transit and in dense urban areas where people could forgo an automobile entirely if located in a walkable community.
So how can your community improve your bicycle and pedestrian friendly environment? Use your current resources to the max. Increasing safety for bicyclists and pedestrians may not be about making every sidewalk curb cut ADA accessible if funding is not available, but you can maximize your current resources. If your road crew has some paint, paint crosswalks in areas that are frequented by pedestrians even if it is not a complete street with sidewalks and bicycle paths. Use paint or signs to increase the awareness of bicycles and pedestrians near parks and in residential neighborhoods to make automobiles aware that bicycles and pedestrians also use the streets. Incorporate a strategy to improve the accessibility of bicycles and pedestrians to local shopping centers by adding a bicycle rack in places where bikes are typically chained to handicapped parking signs and the like. You will be surprised that by simply creating visual cues these uses may increase along with the quality of life of your residents. Additionally, there are still various funding sources available for bicycle and pedestrian funding.
Safe Routes to Schools is the flagship federal bicycle and pedestrian legislation that is intended to increase the number of children that walk and bicycle to school. Enacted and funded under SAFETY-LU legislation, funding supports and increases the number of children that walk and bicycle to school by improving the infrastructure and public awareness of this important issue. For the 2012 funding year only infrastructure improvements were funded, however the five eligible activities that are typically funded under this program are the five E’s, and are as follows:
- Engineering: Infrastructure upgrades that improve the walking and biking environment;
- Encouragement: Programs to encourage or promote walking and biking;
- Education: Programs to educate students, parents and the public about safe walking and biking;
- Enforcement: Activities to improve safety and security for those walking and biking to school; and
- Evaluation: Efforts to monitor and evaluate progress towards the achievement of SRTS goals.
Currently this grant is administered under the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) Local Aid and Economic Development Department and additional information is available at their website: www.state.nj.us/transportation/business/localaid/srts.shtm. Creating partnerships with the school board and the local municipal government is important for this program to be a success and the improvements can implicate long term health benefits for our children as well as decreased busing costs for our school districts.
Other state grant and funding opportunities that are administered through the NJDOT’s Local Aid and Economic Development include: Safe Streets to Transit, Bikeways and Municipal Aid Funding which covers all transportation infrastructure. Historically these funding opportunities are due in September, however planning early and facilitating the planning process is important to ensure the project is well received and a good candidate for the programs. For more information regarding these opportunities visit the NJDOT’s Local Aid and Economic Development website at http://www.state.nj.us/transportation/business/localaid/stateaid.shtm.
Published March 1, 2012.
Triad Associates is currently the League’s Grant Consulting Firm. Their firm, which is known for its expertise in community and economic development, including strategic planning, redevelopment, acquisition, relocation and funding, has brought diverse plans and projects to life by generating more than $580,000,000 for over 120 public, private and nonprofit clients throughout the Northeast region since 1978. Every member of the Triad team is personally committed and dedicated to the success of its clients and the projects that benefit communities.
Full version of March article for printing