According to the Seattle Times, housing prices fell throughout the region during 2008, with the median price per square foot dropping 5 percent in King County. But one neighborhood is bucking the trend, North Beacon/Rainier Valley, which saw median prices rise 12 percent over the year.
[I]t boasts an amenity almost no other neighborhood can offer: the region’s first light-rail line, scheduled to carry its first passenger July 18.
There is a lot of opportunity to make fun of the Times’ latest effort at real estate market cheerleading, not the least of which being its apparent attempt to lump everything south of I-90 and east of I-5 as a single neighborhood. (The examples cited appear to be from distinct neighborhoods we locals would describe as Beacon Hill, Rainier Valley, Mount Baker and Rainier Beach, covering a distance of five light rail stops… but then I guess from Times’ distinctly suburban perspective, all us Southeast Seattleites must look alike.)
Still, it’s good to see the Times finally acknowledging something we light rail boosters have been arguing all along: folks like choo-choos. In fact, they like them so much, they’re willing to move to be near them. On the flip side, I challenge the Times’ intrepid real estate reporters to find one anecdote of a person willing to spend a little extra for a house on the basis that it’s a mere eight minute walk to a bus stop.
Put aside for a moment the question as to whether this behavior is rational, and don’t worry your pretty little heads debating the relative economic efficiency of investing in buses versus rail. All that’s entirely beside the point. Rational or not, for whatever reasons, folks simply prefer trains and trolleys over buses. And it’s a preference whose impact is consistently repeated wherever rail systems are built.
It is ironic that, in a nation that otherwise reveres the market, establishment voices like the Times should so often ignore consumer demand when debating transit alternatives, always arguing that we should build the transit system that costs taxpayers the least, rather than the one they actually want. That’s no way to run a business, and I’d argue that’s no way to run a government either… at least not if your goal is to keep your customers happy.
So North Beacon Hill/Rainier Valley is about to get its light rail, and I’m guessing once it does, our region’s other four “neighborhoods” will want their’s too.