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Making the Train Station’s Neighbors Pay for the Train

Paying up.

Photographer: John Taggart/Bloomberg

Here's some cutting-edge thinking from the editorial writers at the New York Times:

It will surprise nobody to learn that the new Eighth Avenue subway has already added millions to the value of land along its route, and will add more once it is in actual operation. That has been the history of rapid transit construction throughout the city. Nor will there be any quarrel with the City Affairs Committee's conclusion that "the logical source of new revenue to finance the subway system is the specially benefited land the value of which is increased by such transit facilities."

OK, if you're familiar with New York City, the part about "the new Eighth Avenue subway" may have you scratching your head, given that said subway line opened for business in 1932. Some of the phrasing ("specially benefited land") may seem a little archaic, too. Beyond that, though, the arguments seem remarkably current for an editorial published, as this one was, on Dec. 11, 1930. In fact, the Times had a front-page story just two weeks ago that told of rising real estate values on Manhattan's Upper East Side in the wake of the opening of the Second Avenue subway last year, and continued:

The notion that property owners should pay extra for their proximity to the subway is called “value capture” and has long been debated in urban planning circles. Now Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, has made value capture a prominent part of his plan to salvage the subway system by proposing to give the Metropolitan Transportation Authority the power to designate “transit improvement subdistricts” and impose taxes.

It's not just Cuomo and the MTA. The "Legislative Outline for Rebuilding Infrastructure in America" released by the White House on Monday calls for making value capture a prerequisite for Federal Transit Administration capital investment grants. The impact of this does seem to be undercut somewhat by the fiscal-year 2019 budget also released by White House on Monday, which "proposes to wind down the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grant program,"

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but it's still an indication of how bipartisanly fashionable value capture is at the moment.

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