The plan to bring Amtrak passenger rail service to the west side of the Connecticut River has the potential to spur the real estate market in the urban communities of Holyoke, Northampton, and Greenfield. The Vermonter line will be returning to the west side of the river for a more direct route from Vermont to Connecticut, which currently runs through Amherst and Palmer. The “Knowledge Corridor” will be a high speed rail service. It is part of a larger project to bring faster passenger train service to the Northeast Corridor.
In addition to the fact most people would like to live in walkable communities, the housing patterns of the newest generation of home buyers born between 1980 and 2000, known as Generation Y or Millennials, are more inclined toward urban living. This generation drives less, relies on public transportation more, and is migrating toward areas like the Pioneer Valley with economies that are knowledge-based and technology-based. They are also more environmentally conscious. An adequate passenger rail service would make these Pioneer Valley population centers more attractive to this new generation of home buyers.
This is likely due to a combination rising energy costs, the economy, access to public transportation, the need for smartphones and tablets, and the fact that urban living is more environmentally friendly. As an article by Realtor.org about moving trends among Millennials claimed: “Millennials own fewer cars and drive less than their predecessors. They’d rather walk, bike, car-share, and use public transportation — and want to live where that’s all easy.”
The mayors of Northampton, Holyoke, and Greenfield obviously understand the benefits of passenger rail service in their respective communities. The Daily Hampshire Gazette recently reported that the mayors of these cities are lobbying the commonwealth to increase the number of passenger shuttles planned for their respective communities when Amtrak’s Vermonter line returns to the west side of the river.
Plans currently call for only one round trip shuttle through the three cities per day, according to The Gazette. Given the fact that Amtrak runs from New Haven, CT to Springfield and back six times per day, the mayors stated that some of those runs could be extended through their respective communities.
The primary motivation for the mayors’ request is to enhance the economic development in these communities.
“We believe this new service will deliver many positive economic impacts for downtown/urban revitalization, tourism, residential quality of life and business/job development,” the letter stated as quoted in The Gazette.
The mayors cite the fact that ridership on Amtrak is up as justification for the increase in frequency of shuttles that run through Holyoke, Northampton, and Greenfield, stating that it would increase ridership even further. “Rail ridership has increased significantly nationally and in the region over the last 15 years. Amtrak ridership in Amherst surged 50 percent from 2006 to 2012, from 8,700 to 13,000 passengers, and Springfield ridership rose 30 percent in the same time period, from 110,260 to 143,600 passengers,” The Gazette report stated.
Increased passenger rail service will make Holyoke, Northampton, and Greenfield that much more desirable a place to live among Millennials. This is in addition to this generation’s migratory trend toward areas like the Pioneer Valley that have a technology and knowledge-based economy; and the fact that all three of these urban communities are dedicated to being environmentally-friendly, as being designated “Green Communities” under the Green Communities Act, that promote open space, and their involvement in other initiatives demonstrates.
According to the National Association REALTORS® (NAR) 2012 Profile of Home Buyers and Home Sellers, 15% of home buyers in the Northeast purchased a home in urban areas (that number is 17% nationally). The same study concluded that first-time home buyers are more likely to purchase a home in urban areas with 23% of the national 17% doing so. Further, convenience to work was the second most important factor when deciding where to live. Commuting costs is another factor for those who decide urban areas like Holyoke, Northampton, and Greenfield, according to the NAR study. Passenger rail service could make getting to work more convenient for less money. It is also a more environmentally friendly mode of transportation.
Buying a home is already a challenge for Millennials. They face stricter loan requirements and they carry more student loan debt than previous generations. While increased access to passenger rail service will have a positive impact on the respective economies of Holyoke, Northampton, and Greenfield; it has the added benefit to their respective real estate markets. Increased passenger rail service would make living in Holyoke, Northampton, and Greenfield more desirable, affordable, and accessible place to live for Millennials. Given the fact that this generation is the future, facilitating and promoting this more energy efficient method of travel is sensible.
If you are planning on buying or selling a home in the Pioneer Valley, make your first call to Michael Seward at 413-531-7129.