Final Article in Business on Board Series Explores the Use of Special Assessment Districts for Transit

Tysons Corner Wiehle Ave Station Rendering

Over the past year and a half, the ULI Infrastructure Initiative has produced six articles exploring different facets of the private sector’s role in advancing transit. The Business on Board series examined how the private sector has gotten behind pushes to fund transit using ballot initiatives in Salt Lake City and Seattle, how businesses and large institutions have partnered to support bus rapid transit in Cleveland, and how a coalition of land owners helped fund and build Washington DC’s first “infill” transit station, now called NoMa.

The series concluded last month with the release of the final article, Using Special Assessments to Fund Transit, which appeared in the September/October issue of Urban Land magazine.

The special assessments article explores the use of property tax rate increases to channel funding to transit. At a time of tight public sector budgets at all levels, special assessment districts, a type of value-capture, are being used to support transit investments, including heavy rail, bus rapid transit systems, and transit supportive road improvements.

  • In northern Virginia, the expansion of the Silver Line metro has been made possible by the approval of three special assessment districts. The two-phase project will expand Metro access to Tysons Corner and Dulles International Airport in Loudoun and Fairfax counties, where local property owners and leaders have approved tax rate increases on commercial and industrial properties near the corridor that will generate as much as $1 billion for the $6 billion project.
  • A special assessment district pioneered by the White Flint Partnership will raise $169 million to convert Rockville Pike in north Bethesda, Maryland into a pedestrian and transit oriented place. Local real estate leaders will also build new streets and improve on-site infrastructure, at a cost of $280 million. Montgomery County leaders are also considering special tax assessments for future bus rapid transit (BRT) system investments.
  • In Atlanta, the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District is channeling revenues from its pre-existing assessment on downtown properties towards the downtown streetcar project, providing up to $20 million over 20 years. These revenues will help fund the $83 million streetcar project slated to open in 2013.

We’d like to give a special thanks to our Infrastructure Update readers, who helped us identify special assessment approaches and projects for the article. Thanks also to the people we interviewed for the article, as well as Jennifer Ball of the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District and Francine Waters of Lerner Enterprises.

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