O’Connor: Streetcar moves economic development forward

Published: Tuesday, February 14, 2017 By: Cathy O'Connor Source: The Journal Record

Construction on the rail line for the Oklahoma City streetcar recently broke ground, marking another major MAPS 3 milestone. Many of us are eager to have another transit option in and around downtown Oklahoma City, but streetcar service offers more than mobility, it fuels economic growth.

Portland, Oregon, has seen $3.5 billion of new development within two blocks of the streetcar route in the past two decades. And after nearly a year in operation, Kansas City attributes nearly $3 billion in new economic development along the streetcar corridor since plans were announced in 2012.

Based on the experience of others cities, properties up to a quarter of a mile on either side of a streetcar route experience the greatest economic growth in terms of added housing and commercial growth. Using this parameter for Oklahoma City, it is estimated that over 10 years, streetcar service will significantly increase development in Midtown, downtown, Bricktown and the developing Core to Shore area by bringing more housing units, new commercial square feet, new businesses and new jobs.

Surrounding areas within walking distance of the streetcar route like Deep Deuce and the Arts District are also expected to benefit from the “streetcar effect.”

Economic growth is also expected to come from increased sales at existing businesses. Most of Kansas City’s downtown businesses reported a moderate to significant increase in sales, and 83 percent saw a positive increase in foot traffic. We anticipate similar growth for Oklahoma City.

There are still several factors that must be determined before estimating the economic impact of the streetcar. The appropriate types of data and the methods for tracking impact over time are still being discussed. For example, should we measure the impact within one block of the streetcar, or farther? From the time the streetcar begins service, or from the time the project was announced?

We are working with staff from the city, the chamber and Embark to make these determinations and begin the tracking of data. One thing is certain – the willingness and vitality of our community to embrace the OKC streetcar will have a positive impact for years to come.

Cathy O’Connor is the president of the Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City.


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