So the apparent success of Car2Go in incentivizing members to give up their personal vehicles—about 2,000 Seattleites, according to the company’s statistics—got me thinking about a recent article I’d seen on what it really means to live and work “close” to transit.
The conventional thinking among urban planners is that few Americans are willing to walk more than a half a mile to a transit stop; after that, ridership supposedly falls off precipitously. But a new study on the impact of proximity to a light rail station on office rents in Dallas found that a quarter of the rent premium persists nearly a full mile from transit, and at least some rent premium can be detected as much as 1.85 miles away.
That’s right: Businesses are willing to pay significantly higher rents to be about a mile from a light rail station. Which clearly implies that a significant portion of their workers are willing to walk that mile. In Texas.
That doesn’t surprise me. I live about a mile from Othello Station, and Link Light Rail has become my primary means of commuting downtown to work. No traffic, no expensive parking, and rarely an unexpected delay. It’s simply much less expensive and more convenient than driving.
To be honest, the majority of days I don’t actually walk the full mile. On days I need to drop off or pick up my daughter on Mercer Island, I park just outside the restricted area around Mt. Baker Station—the closest station to the I-90 bridge. And, I admit, on many other days I drive halfway to Othello Station, due to poor time management on my part, or bad weather. (Mostly poor time management.)
But—and here’s my main observation—I already own a car. If I did not own a car, I certainly wouldn’t buy one to take me a half mile closer to the rail station. I’d just walk it. No big deal.
According to AAA, when you add everything together, the average cost of car ownership comes to $8,876 a year. Of course, you can own a car for less. I figure my car is costing me less than $5,000 a year. But that’s not nothing. And as our transportation options increase—rail, bus, Car2Go, ZipCar, taxi, and yes, even the economically predacious TNCs like Uber and Lyft—more and more Seattleites will choose to steer clear of car ownership.
And the less we own cars, the further we’ll be willing to walk to transit. Having transformed the choice between walking and driving into a choice between walking and owning a car, a one mile walk—even a mile and a half—just won’t seem all that far.