by Jason Garcia
Updated 3 yearss ago
SunRail, metro Orlando’s 4-year-old commuter train, faces an uncertain future. Ridership has failed to meet initial projections. And with only two years until the Florida Department of Transportation turns over financial responsibility for SunRail to the region’s local governments, city and county leaders have no plan for paying the line’s nearly $60-million-a-year operating tab.
There are reasons for optimism. Last summer, SunRail expanded into Osceola County — growing from 12 to 16 stations and from 32 to 49 miles. Ridership jumped from fewer than 80,000 a month on average to roughly 121,000 a month.
What’s more, a new FDOT study finds that while SunRail hasn’t spurred many commuters to give up their cars, it has spurred something else: Property values. The study, written by faculty and students at Florida State University and published in December, found that the property values for the areas around SunRail’s original 12 stations grew a combined 62.8% between 2011 and 2017, nearly three times as fast as the property values in the study’s control areas.
Altogether, the areas around the stations added a combined $2.4 billion in property value — half of which is directly attributable to SunRail.
But property values haven’t climbed uniformly across the system; growth rates around individual stations ranged from 125.4% near the Church Street station in downtown Orlando to a 0.3% decline at the Altamonte Springs station in Seminole County, the only station to see a decline.
And the actual property tax revenue generated by the land around the stations grew at a much slower pace, 41.5%, than the property values. That’s because a significant portion of the growth occurred around the stations serving AdventHealth Orlando and Orlando Health, where property values grew 98% and 30%, respectively. Much of the land around those stations is owned by the two non-profit hospital giants and therefore tax-exempt. Tax revenue at those stations rose 43.4% and 28.1% respectively.
Still, the report was greeted as a needed jolt of good news. “SunRail has proven to be a catalyst for positive property value growth,” the FSU team concluded.
Read more in our March issue.
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