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published on May 30, 2008

First, let’s not confuse this with the “light rail” proposal for central Austin that’s been in the news in recent days.  This is the 32 mile commuter system along existing rail lines that begins in Leander and works its way to downtown Austin.

You may be aware that the topic of rail is almost always accompanied by fierce debate:  is it necessary?  Is it a waste of money?  Will people ride it?  It’s not our place here to rehash those arguments.  We’ll all have to wait until the system goes live later this year to find out how many use it and where it sees the most action.

Rather, we look at this from the perspective of Austin Texas area real estate. If rail succeeds in attracting commuters seeking a faster, easier alternative to long commutes on 183 or Mopac, then it seems clear that the greatest benefit will come to those living further away.  In this case, that means residents out in Leander and Cedar Park and portions of north Austin.

With stations already complete or soon to be finished in Leander, near Lakeline Mall, at Howard and Mopac and in the Burnet/Kramer area, that would mean any neighborhoods within a short drive of these northernmost stations’ parking lots could have a major new selling point. 

Pending its acceptance by commuters, rail could also significantly impact real estate values in other areas. Planners have left open the possibility of rail expansions along the old “MoKan” line, which would take it through Pflugerville and ultimately into Manor.

Officials throughout Williamson County – Leander in particular – have been excitedly buzzing for the past few years about the notion of “Transit Oriented Development”.  They believe and hope that rail will put them on the map and bring in all kinds of new rooftops and commercial sites, making this the next major growth area to watch.

What impact will commuter rail have on the value of homes in Austin Texas and surrounding areas?  We’ll see.

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