To meet the demands of climate action, California must significantly shift trips away from private automobiles to less carbon-intensive modes of transportation, including public transit. Investment in public transit is hampered by high costs and lack of federal investment. Regressive consumption taxes instituted by local and state governments to fund public transit investment are approaching legal and political limits. An untapped source of revenue for public transit is land values. Recent studies have shown that private land value uplift associated with rail investment in Fremont, California and Manhattan, New York were multiple times the cost of the transit improvements. This document proposes ways in which California transit operators could re-capture the land value uplift in commercial and residential property to re-invest in public transit expansion and service.
The paper argues that a "land gain tax" is one of many options for capturing that land value increase.
Authors Sagehorn and Joshua Hawn want similar legislation to apply to future BART land purchases as well as to other transit agencies. "In light of its ambitious climate goals and strained commutes, California’s transit capital and operations needs are immense. California can leverage land values to re-capture the uplift from public infrastructure investment to create a sustainable positive feedback of transit investment and economic justice," concludes the study.
From Streetsblog's view, this is, of course, an excellent proposal for funding transit improvements that the Bay Area can emulate. It also throws water on the NIMBY argument that one can't increase density without first improving transit--no, they should be done concurrently, and the development should be financially tied to it. The next step is to pass more bills such as the newly introduced S.B. 10 from San Francisco state senator Scott Wiener, his latest effort to make it possible to build more housing near transit. As Sagehorn and Hawn's study indicates, the Bay Area's housing and transportation problems can only be successfully addressed together.