Urban Tools director casts eye to transit funding in Pittsburgh
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Urban Tools director casts eye to transit funding in Pittsburgh


Dr. Herbert Barry III, serves the community in many ways, not least of which is his position as a senior director of our parent organization, the Center for the Study of Economics.  





Dr. Barry recently published a brief essay in the "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette" in support of collecting economic rent in an efficient and just way:

Maximize Value
 
   Articles by Jon Schmitz in the Post-Gazette on June 20 and 21 described a bus rapid transit line in Cleveland. The stories suggest that building a similar line between Downtown and the Hill District and Uptown would generate extra tax revenues for Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, and the School District.
   That would happen because land values would rise along the popular transit line, especially close to the
entry and exit stations. A saying is that the three most important
determinants of real estate value are location, location, location.
   These hopes for higher revenues are overly optimistic, however. Any increases in tax revenues would be minimized because Allegheny County taxes land and buildings at the same rate, while most of the assessed value of a typical property is on the building instead of the land. Overall tax revenues could be increased by obtaining more from the value of land and less from the value of buildings.
   Prior to 2001, Pittsburgh benefited from a lower tax rate on the value of buildings than of land. Also helpful would be more frequent property reassessments.
HERBERT BARRY III

Oakland

The piece was written to analyze the excitement over the possibility of a Bus Rapid Transit Line from the University of Pittsburgh area to Downtown increasing access and raising property values. The hubbub has been generated by a similar line in Cleveland, Ohio.The difficulty of capitalizing the investment of the community into fiscal benefits TO the community are noted.  Matching local funding for the BRT ought to be sourced from local land values, particularly value uplifts in areas near projected BRT stops.

The project environs in particular and Pittsburgh in general would reap a greater benefit by  reducing the tax burdens on what the project is meant to encourage: growth and building in areas long-abandoned and blighted.

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