Light rail, smart buildings benefit even those who don’t use them

Tue, 2015-06-30 06:00 -- SCC Staff

When planning an infrastructure investment, cities typically concentrate on the people who directly benefit from it. But a new study finds everyone in the city benefits -- even if they never ride the transit system or visit the energy-efficient building.

Council Associate Partner Siemens studied a light rail extension project in Salt Lake City and smart building upgrades at the University of Louisville campus in Kentucky. In both cases, the projects delivered sizeable economic gains extending well beyond the group of people impacted directly. That’s also beyond the temporary jobs created in building the systems and getting them up and running.

Light rail benefits extend beyond line
The study found that Salt Lake City’s UTA Trax and FrontRunner lines served as magnets that attracted businesses. Businesses, especially in industries where there is a lot of competition for skilled labor, want to make it as easy as possible for employees to get to work.

It found that major employers, including Adobe, eBay, Goldman Sachs, and Workday, all made office location decisions, at least in part, based on the proximity to transit centers. The transit investment resulted in 1,300 new jobs, $66 million in wages and an overall $227 million boost to the local economy. Adding indirect and induced benefits, the county’s total grows to 2,800 jobs and $410 million in additional annual business sales.

And that’s all in addition to the environmental benefits that result from getting more people out of their cars.

Reinvesting savings drives sustainable growth
The smart building project at the University of Louisville, meantime, illustrates what can happen when energy savings are reinvested. The university invested in smart building technologies to conserve water, electricity and natural gas and it’s saving more each year than it’s paying on debt service for the upgrades.

By reinvesting those savings, the study found the university is supporting 71 new jobs and has delivered a $9 million economic impact to the larger metropolitan area over a four-year period. Its conservation project is also serving as a long-term, citywide economic stimulus.

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