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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Transit Gets the Economy Moving

Our tour of HART's Rapid Transit Investment Plan continues with a look at how a transit investment can translate into economic opportunity for our community.

Investing in transit can help us build a stronger economy
for Hillsborough County, now and into the future.
Topic number one in just about any discussion on the economy these days comes down to jobs. Just a few days ago, the state's Agency for Workforce Innovation put out the latest unemployment figures for Florida.

The news for Hillsborough County: 12.2% of us are out of work, considerably more than the national total of about 9.5%.

How can investing in transit help put our economy back on track? The answer is two-fold. One, putting people to work on construction, infrastructure and increased service today; and two, providing opportunities for the businesses of tomorrow.

Building the Future
Expanding Hillsborough County's transit system would mean an almost instant increase in available jobs. As noted in a previous post, HART's first order of business should voters approve a new transit investment would be to start beefing up bus service during "off-peak" time periods. More buses on the roads means a need for more people to drive them, and more people to keep them in perfect working order.

In addition, the task of building light rail and bus rapid transit infrastructure would require engineering and construction workers. There would be significant opportunities for local businesses and disadvantaged business enterprise firms as such major projects move forward.

Some hard numbers from the HART Rapid Transit Investment Plan:
  • Local businesses and disadvantaged businesses (DBEs) will have enhanced opportunities to partner with HART. For the 20 year period between 2015-2035, Hillsborough County’s gross domestic product (GDP) would increase by $3.5 billion, with $1.12 billion arising as a result of travel cost savings to users and the remaining $2.38 billion arising from construction activity.
  • For the same time period, over 9,000 job years (one year of full-time employment is a job year) will be created as a result of reduced travel costs for both highway and transit users.
  • Construction activity associated with the capital plan will support an additional 25,000 job years from 2011-2035, for a total of more than 34,000 job years.
Driving Businesses of Tomorrow
Once transit improvements are up and running, economic opportunity turns to the private sector, with benefits for businesses large and small. The corporation looking for locations for a new headquarters or other large hub will find a workforce that can easily get to work on a convenient, reliable transit system. Small businesses can capitalize on the new developments that will grow around transit stations.

More information from the RTIP:
  • Currently, 12% of the county population and employment opportunities are located near areas that offer frequent transit service. The number grows to over 50% under the proposed plan.
  • Approximately 148,000 more jobs will be accessible by transit (20% more) with the bus service improvements, which expands opportunity for employers and employees alike.
In addition, other communities across the country that have made transit improvements have seen a significant return in the form of property values, jobs and tax revenues due to private investment:

  • Phoenix
    $5.9 billion in development
    Property value increases range from 129% to 429%
  • Salt Lake City
    $2.8 billion in development
    Support 30,000 jobs at completion of development plans
  • Charlotte
    $3.1 billion in development
    Generated over $5.7 million in local taxes
  • Dallas
    $1 billion in development at recently added stations
    Property values at stations 39% higher for residential and 53% higher for office buildings
So while there's no single solution to our economic issues, transit is an important tool in our toolbox because it can help provide jobs, give people better access to jobs, and create opportunities for businesses.

Information of benefits of expanded transit comes from a Cambridge Systematics report on the economic impacts of transit in Hillsborough County, and the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization. For a presentation on the Cambridge Systematics report, click here.

For a printable version of the economic benefits of transit from HART's Rapid Transit Investment Plan, click here.

For an overview of the Rapid Transit Investment Plan, click here.

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