Living close to a SEPTA rail station is good for the value of your suburban house, according to a study for the transit agency.
The overall benefit to Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties is about $7,900 per house, or $6 billion of total value added by the Regional Rail network in those counties, said the study by Econsult Solutions Inc., of Philadelphia.
SEPTA released the study Tuesday as it continues to lobby in Harrisburg for increased transportation funding. SEPTA last month warned that without more public funding, it will have to cut rail service deeply across the region.
The new study analyzed the 88,300 sales of single-family detached houses in the four counties between 2005 and 2012.
It concluded that in communities such as Jenkintown, Ardmore, Media, and Lansdale, close to stations with lots of parking and frequent train service, houses are worth $31,100 to $37,300 more than similar houses more than three miles away from a station.
"Elimination of SEPTA Regional Rail service would reduce single-family house values in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties by an average of $7,900 for an aggregate loss of nearly $6 billion," the study said, using an average home value of $375,000.
"This represents the value of accessibility generated by SEPTA in the four suburban counties and does not value the loss associated with a diminished economy or increased roadway congestion."
The study acknowledged a downside to living close to train stations that was included in the calculations: "Proximity . . . can also impose nuisance effects, such as noise and increased local congestion, on nearby neighbors. The combined effects can be mixed, and it becomes a question of which one dominates."
All things being equal, Econsult concluded that a house within a half-mile of a station with at least 100 parking spaces and nine morning peak hour trains was worth 10 percent more than one three miles or more from a station. Even a house three miles from such a station was worth 8 percent more.
"You can learn a lot about how much people value things by looking at the housing market," said Richard Voith, president of Econsult.
"It's not in your interest, whether you use the system or not," to reduce SEPTA service, Voith said.
SEPTA paid $5,000 and provided data and in-kind services to Econsult, said SEPTA chief financial officer Richard Burnfield.
SEPTA's doomsday plan of service cuts, to be enacted if the legislature fails to approve more state funding, calls for suspending service on the lightly traveled Cynwyd rail line next year, the heavily traveled Media-Elwyn line in 2015, the Chestnut Hill West line in 2018, and the West Trenton, Airport, Warminster, Marcus Hook-Wilmington, Fox Chase, and Chestnut Hill East lines in 2023.
In addition, SEPTA says it would truncate its busiest line, Paoli-Thorndale, at Malvern in 2023, and end service to Doylestown on the Lansdale-Doylestown line in 2018.
Also, the plan calls for retiring — but not replacing — 284 railcars, leaving the agency with just its 120 new Silverliner V cars by 2023.
SEPTA is lobbying House lawmakers to pass a Senate-approved plan to increase transportation funding by $2.5 billion annually for highways, bridges, and public transit. That would mean about $400 million more a year for SEPTA to rebuild failing rail bridges, stations, and power equipment.
Copyright 2013 - The Philadelphia Inquirer