This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.
Phillip Langdon, writing about a Metro rail corridor in Arlington County, VA, notes, “the corridor, containing 7.6 percent of the countys land area, generates 33 percent of its property tax revenue.” The corridor was transformed with the construction of the Metro.
Here’s why this is important: politicians love to increase their clout by increasing their tax base. Traditionally, this was done by annexing land further out in suburbia. But now, as gas prices increase and old-line, first-generation suburbs are increasingly boxed in, there’s no place to go but… up. Well, if you’re interested in increasing your tax base anyway.
This explains, in part, why Bellevue is so eager to develop the Bel-Red corridor in advance of light rail. It’s even more eager than Seattle, which faces NIMBY hurdles around the South Seattle light rail stations.
This point is buried in Knute Berger’s recent piece in Crosscut (which is worth reading despite its annoying trope of knocking down down strawmen).
As these old-line, inner-ring suburbs realize that the path to continued relevance is powered by an overhead catenary, they will densify. It’s already happening in America’s first suburb, Long Island (where I grew up), where county executives are pushing for revitalizing downtowns (thusfar on a skeptical public, though LI is in better shape than most, with a host of walkable downtowns and a robust commuter rail network).