Can good walking and bicycling facilities increase the value of your home? Perhaps more importantly, can the lack of bike lanes decrease your home’s value?
Or, have you heard replies from engineers, planners, and politicians like “nobody’s asking for it” and “we can’t afford it” in response to pleas for better and safer pedestrian and cycling infrastructure?
They are correct that few are asking for it. Most people aren’t writing emails or showing up at council meetings. What people are doing apparently, is choosing to buy houses in places that do have good cycling and pedestrian infrastructure instead of in places still waiting around for people to ask for it.
This seems to have become apparent in house values over the past few years.
For another project last summer I very quickly rated each of the 76 cities in the metro area based on the ability of residents and workers to comfortably walk or bike to local destinations*. More recently, doing some analysis of housing values across the metro, I wondered how this walking and cycling infrastructure might impact these values.
The fast decline and recovery over the past several years allow us to see changes in value relatively disconnected from the values of the houses themselves and thus provide us a unique opportunity to see how home buyers may value each city.
The red bars below show the change in home values for each of the 76 cities in the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area over the prior three years (thru November 2012) – approximately 31 months of market decline and 5 of recovery.
From a monetary standpoint would you have preferred to own a house or condo in one of the cities towards the left that have lost little value (or, in the case of Edina, gained value), or one towards the right that have lost significant value – a very painful 21.3% in the case of Anoka?
The green bars indicate the relative cycling and pedestrian infrastructure in each of these cities. For reference, Copenhagen or Amsterdam might be about a 20 on this scale, Paris or Munich a 10, so, though a 5 is good, there’s still much room for improvement.
Notice where the cities with better cycling infrastructure are on the chart. The two with the best infrastructure, Edina and Plymouth, have also performed the best in house value over the past three years (and over other periods). All of the suburbs with a cycling infrastructure rating of 4 are in the top third, and those rated 3 are all in the top 50%.
Minneapolis is a bit of an exception, it is rated a relatively high 4 in cycling infrastructure but is ranked 47th in value retention, well in to the bottom 50%. Minneapolis though is a core city which is very different from a suburb and, compared to other core cities, has performed quite well relative to its surrounding suburbs. It is also ranked a top city in the nation for cycling infrastructure. Coincidence?
Looking at the three year change in value, grouped by infrastructure, those with a rating of 5 increased in value by 5.2%, 4’s lost an average of 6.6%, 3’s lost 7.9%, 2’s lost 11%, and 1’s lost 13.2%. That’s interesting.
The presence of cycling infrastructure is, a bit surprisingly, not very dependent on the overall value of housing in a city. Plymouth is 13th in overall house value with an average less than half that of top ranked Orono. Eagan, Chaska, and Maple Grove are right near the middle of the 76 metro cities in overall value yet have relatively good walking and bicycling infrastructure and have done well in value retention.
Walking and bicycling infrastructure also appear to have had greater impact on the change in house values than other factors such as overall house value, distance from the downtowns of Minneapolis or St Paul, or the presence of parks, lakes, sports, or senior living facilities.
This is far from a thorough econometric analysis. It is enough though to know that there is something to it (and worthy of further research) and to give us a few things to ponder.
What’s important is not necessarily the money. What this quick analysis shows is how people value each city and the choices made by the leaders of these cities. Leaders who are migrating their cities from a car dominant city to a more human-centric community, who are putting in pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, are seeing their cities thrive relative to others. These leaders decided they couldn’t afford not to do this, didn’t wait for people to ask, and realized that, like Amsterdam, they can change. And these are the cities where people are indicating, with their feet and their money, that they want to live.
I very quickly analyzed each of the 76 cities that comprise the Twin Cities Metro Area and, on a scale of 1 to 5, assigned each a rating on its local transportation cycling and pedestrian infrastructure. Emphasis was placed on how safely and efficiently residents and workers can bike and walk to local destinations such as shopping, schools, and public transit. This did not include recreational trails that, while nice amenities, didn’t actually go anywhere. Note also that I said I ‘very quickly analyzed’ each – there is considerable room for improvement in these ratings.
I will suggest an alternative hypothesis that is also consistent with the data presented: The causality is reversed. Cities that are well-off maintain housing value and have the resources to invest in bicycle infrastructure.
To really test this, you need to look at change over time (are cities that are appreciating rapidly in response to bicycle infrastructure, or vice versa). See in particular this paper by Kevin Krizek (I am acknowledged and worked on the project)
This article reports the results of two different approaches to valuing some of what are thought to be benefits of bicycle trails and lanes. First, an adaptive stated preference survey is used to measure how much travel time individuals are willing to spend to obtain particular features of on- and off-street bicycle facilities. These findings indicate that bicycle commuters in Minneapolis and St. Paul prefer bicycle lanes on existing streets over off-street bicycle trails, and also prefer them over streets that have no onstreet parking but lack designated bicycle lanes. Second, I used home sales data to learn the effect of bicycle trail proximity on home value. Though proximity to bicycle facilities is valued differently for different types, it actually significantly reduced home value in suburban locations. Suburban home values were most reduced by proximity to roadside trails, which also reduced home values significantly in the cities. Proximity to other types of bicycle facilities in the cities did not significantly affect home values.
I can give you a counterexample. The tactical urbanism change in Memphis, TN, where a very poor block has seen a monir economic revival after an unauthorized bike lane was painted on.. It’s been covered here before.
Can you tell us more about your methodology for rating the cities? I’m not sure exactly what you’re trying to measure. In the post you use the phrase “the ability of residents and workers to comfortably walk or bike to local destinations”, while the graph is labeled “cycling infrastructure”. These are quite different things.
Ed Kohler has mentioned the “Minnehaha Smile of Stability” in housing prices – roughly that the closer homes are to Minnehaha Parkway in South Minneapolis, the more stable the housing prices seem to be. This does not necessarily have anything to do with bikes, of course.
I knew you would ask that 🙂 First pass was studying maps to get some rough idea of each city. I started w/ google’s bike routes but also looked at maps on city websites and other maps where possible. I drove around many of the cities doing a quick visual observation and also rode my bike around several. Very far from an exhaustive analysis and perhaps only a notch or two above arbitrary. For reference, the initial purpose was for conversations with some suburban city officials to give them a rough idea of where they stood in relation to other suburbs.
EDIT to add: Single rating points are not extremely significant. EG, lowering Edina to a 4, Maple Grove to a 3, and raising Shoreview to a 4 makes very little difference. Most significant is probably 3’s and above vs 2’s and below.
Ideally I’d really like to see a way to do a good objective analysis of this. I tried with some help from MNDOT, but the data just didn’t appear to be there yet. Perhaps some day we can get enough detailed info on road/corridor segments in OSM to allow rating of these segments and roll that up to neighborhoods, cities, and counties.
Here’s a link to an example of the Minnehaha smile Reuben mentioned:
I filtered Minneapolis for sale single family home listings down to $300-$400k to help a friend understand which part of town has been consistently strong and stable. This happens to follow Minnehaha Creek, the Minneapolis Lakes, and the Mississippi River gorge, which all have great trail access. They also have water, which people value very highly.
North Minneapolis gets screwed (in yet another way) by being nearly cut off from the river, and due to the disconnect of trails from the larger network.
Personally, trails played a big role in my real estate purchases. They had to pass the “run test” for my wife. As in, she needed to feel comfortable running after work in the dark, so was looking for a combination of trails and people actually using those trails. We went with the Longfellow Community near the Longfellow Grill, which offers trails (River Parkways, Midtown Greenway), solid transit, and lots of walkable venues. Prices over here increase with every block closer to the river. People may be willing to pay more to live closer to the Greenway, but it’s still mostly warehouses along that corridor in Longfellow these days.
Reuben, you said “In the post you use the phrase “the ability of residents and workers to comfortably walk or bike to local destinations”, while the graph is labeled “cycling infrastructure”. These are quite different things.”
I’ve been munching on this a bit and I’m not sure I’m getting it. Is the ability to comfortably walk or bike somewhere not a quite direct indicator of infrastructure? I feel like I’m missing something.
Hi David. That’s what I expected as well. I was quite surprised that there actually seemed only limited correlation between how well-off a city is, in terms of average house value, and their implementation of infrastructure. For example, Maple Grove, (rated a 4 in infrastructure), is ranked 31st in average house value, but 16th in how well they retained their value over the 3 year period, 15 places better. Likewise, Orono (rated a 2) is 1st in overall value, but 11th in how well they retained their value, North Oaks (1) is 2nd in overall value, but 27th in retention.
Generally, those rated 3, 4, or 5 placed higher in retention than overall value while 1’s and 2’s placed lower. This relatively regardless of overall house value. HOWEVER, while there is limited correlation, in general those rated 3 or above in infrastructure are also in the upper 2/3’s (lowest 3 is Cottage Grove @ 49th). I’m not sure which came first, poor leadership resulting in low housing values or low housing values leading to either poor leadership or lack of funding – I’d guess a bit of both.
It sounds like your paper (I wasn’t able to DL, but would love to read it and talk to you more about it) is focused more on Mpls/St Paul proper and not the overall metro?
This is an interesting assessment, but unfortunately, I think the city rankings are completely off. Google prioritizes shared-use paths as bike routes, when they’re not necessarily a good measure of bike/ped friendliness. In fact, in many cases, they go hand-in-hand with high-speed streets with no bike lanes, difficult crossings, and no buffer from traffic. For example… Richfield or Bloomington’s sidewalks along arterials are 6′ wide and made of concrete. Eden Prairie’s are 8′ or 10′ wide and made of asphalt. (Oh, and the road is twice as wide and higher-speed.) This makes Eden Prairie a more bikeable community?
I think it would would have been much better to use Walkscore as a baseline, and then exercise some other way to account for significant bike infrastructure projects. (I agree that Edina deserves to rank among the top, because it’s shown more investment in bike/ped projects than any of the rest of the first ring.)
Hi Sean. I did look at Walkscore (and Bikescore) but these are based purely on distance not actual walkability or bikeability. At least for 99% of the population. Location A may have a rating of X but the routes to amenities have poor or no sidewalks or require walking or riding in the traffic lane on a 45mph road. Location B has a rating of half of X because amenities are almost twice as far away (their calcs are, correctly, not linear), but in this case you have good sidewalks or MUPs for the entire route and better designed and safer intersections.
Most people will find the second location, with a lower walkscore, more walkable or bikeable.
I ranked MUPs fairly high – if they provided a link to get somewhere useful. The average person and homebuyer, I think, is more comfortable riding on a 10′ asphalt MUP with 2′ of grass between it and a 50mph roadway than a 6′ sidewalk directly next to a 40mph roadway. Unlike MUPs, sidewalks also tend to have a lot more furniture and they come with the ‘this is a sidewalk not a bikeway’ issue.
Also, and I should have perhaps made this more clear in the post, I was focused on local commutes by average people, not so much multi-mile commutes by devotees of John Forrester. MUPs are spoken of and perhaps perceived by serious commuters as very dangerous but the average person riding a city bike 12mph feels very comfortable on them.
All this said, I do agree that the rankings are far from accurate. Hopefully sometime in the future we can improve on them.
I’m not trying to make a MUPs are bad / John Forester argument. I acknowledge that separated bike facilities appeal to many users. My point is simply that MUPs, in the context they are largely used in your high-ranked cities, are not appealing to anyone, and are certainly not bike facilities. Again, there is a perverse correlation between bike friendliness and presence of MUPs, because in cities like Apple Valley, Maple Grove, etc., they are used primarily along large, high-speed arterials. In addition to slower, narrower arterials, the older suburbs have more intact grids as well, which means there are many continuous routes that do not involve an arterial at all.
Here are a couple examples that make my point. Here’s Pilot Knob Road in Apple Valley, a 55 mph 4-lane (+ turn lanes) arterial. There is a wide MUP on both sides. Here’s Bloomington Avenue in Richfield, which has no bike lanes, no MUPs, only a meager sidewalk on one side. Apple Valley ranked 3x as high as Richfield in your assessment because of “bike facilities” like those along Pilot Knob. I cannot imagine any cyclist of any skill level would prefer the first option to the second, even if that meant riding in the roadway or being constrained to a narrow sidewalk.
(For the record, I didn’t just pick out Pilot Knob to make a point. If you lived in Cobblestone Lake, a largescale new development near there, your only options to access downtown Apple Valley would be County Rd 42, 160th St, and/or Pilot Knob — they all have pretty much the same design.)
A few thoughts. First, You may be 100% correct that Richfield should rank higher.
In your comparison I agree that most would prefer Richfield (assuming this is indeed a very low traffic street). However, it wouldn’t take too much traffic on your Richfield street for people to start preferring the Apple Valley MUP. Most people don’t like to mix with motor vehicles. It’s a huge impediment to their riding a bike. The MUP may be next to a noisy road with gobs of cars flying by – but the path is separate from that. And separate and by how much is really really important.
That said, I think the difference in these may have been access to retail and other destinations with Richfield requiring more vehicular cycling than Apple Valley.
Maybe what I should do if I have time (or several of us can do this) is fairly focused, spend a few hours riding through each, city by city comparisons. Maybe hack up a copy of facemash into citymash.
I looked up the traffic counts on Hodgson & Koehler, the two roads referenced below. Koehler, that people don’t like to ride or walk on, is 2,850 & 3,700. Hodgson, with a quite popular MUP is 14,300.
FWIW, on my road bike I’d probably take Koehler any day over Hodgson, on my city bike I’ll take Hodgson’s MUP. My wife refuses to ever ride on Koehler, loves riding on the Hodgson MUP.
Edit: Perhaps a better comparison to your Pilot Knob example is Hiway 96 through Shoreview. It’s a 4-lane, divided, 50mph posted (55-60mph actual) highway with up to 8 lanes (7 + high speed slip) at intersections such as Hodgson. I would
guess, based on a few years of observation so could be way off, that this MUP gets 3 or 4 times the bike traffic as Koehler that has 1/10 the motor traffic and is a more critical walk/bike connection between residential and retail.
Here’s a walkscore/bikescore example. Our house has a walkscore of 16. Nobody walks and very few will bike to our closest amenities that are .7 mi away because it involves a curvy road with 2′ potholed shoulders and cars often going 40mph (in a 30mph zone). A friend’s house on Hodgson Rd in Shoreview has a walkscore of 4, but they and we (and their neighbors) enjoy walking and biking the 1.7 miles to amenities for lunch or dinner, to pick up some wine or shop at the grocery.
Interestingly, the 24min bikescore for their house doesn’t include about 70% of amenities within a 10 minute bike ride on 100% MUPs. Bikescore has a ways to go.