Recent investments in public transit are reshaping the way Ottawa residents live and move. The first phase of our city's light rail development, likely to transform the downtown core, is expected to be completed later this year. Soon thereafter, construction on Phase 2 is expected to begin, with completion slated for 2023. While the pain and inconvenience of construction is at the front of many residents' minds these days, development is already increasing at certain key points along the new rail lines and encouraging us to consider how light rail might reshape our city.
Research on the effects of light rail development on property values is somewhat conflicting. One study, conducted by the Real Estate Investment Network, indicated that Ottawa properties within a few blocks of a transit station could increase in value by as much as 20%. The City of Ottawa has said that it does anticipate some rise in property values in the areas surrounding the 13 stations built in first phase of LRT development, with some experts suggesting that that rise could be significant, anywhere from 10 to 50%.
Research from other North American cities that have already undergone light rail development suggests that more modest increases property values are more likely. It all depends on how well the new system fits into Ottawans' current lifestyle and how seamlessly we can become a rail-centric city. It will be interesting to observe whether or how the real estate market shifts once the Phase 1 stations are open for business. Those observations may help us to predict the impacts of the LRT's second phase, which will extend light rail east to Orleans and west to Bayshore and Baseline.
Light rail does promise reductions in the cost, time and stress associated with commuting within the city; less traffic-related air pollution; and greater neighbourhood walk-ability, which is associated with a variety of health benefits. All of these factors are likely to make Ottawa a healthier and more desirable city in the long-term, no matter what neighbourhood you live in.