An Evaluation of the Accessibility Benefits of Commuter Rail in Eastern Massachusetts using Spatial Hedonic Price Functions

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

infrastructure - station, planning - signage/information, economics - appraisal/evaluation, economics - benefits, technology - geographic information systems, mode - rail


Social costs, Residential areas, Railroad commuter service, Rail transit stations, Property values, Orthophotographs, Multimodal transportation, Multimodal systems, Massachusetts, Hedonic price models, GIS, Geographic information systems, Geocoding, Externalities, Distance, Commuter rail, Accessibility


This paper examines the local and regional accessibility benefits of commuter rail service as capitalized into the property values of single-family residential properties, while controlling for proximity-related negative externalities. Digital orthophotography and geographic information systems are used to measure both multimodal accessibility to commuter rails stations and distance from the rail right-of-way. Spatial hedonic price functions are estimated. The data include 1,860 single-family residential properties from four municipalities in eastern Massachusetts with commuter rail service and three municipalities without commuter rail service. The authors find some evidence of the capitalization of accessibility to commuter rail stations. Two model specifications suggest that properties located in municipalities with commuter rail stations exhibit values that are between 9.6% and 10.1% higher than properties in municipalities without a commuter rail station. With a third model weak evidence of the capitalization of auto access time or walking time to the stations is shown, suggesting that properties located within a one-half mile buffer of a station have values that are 10.1% higher than properties located outside of this buffer area and that an additional minute of drive time from the station is related to a decrease of 1.6% in property values. The results also indicate that proximity to commuter rail right-of-way has a significant negative effect on property values, which suggests that for every 1,000 ft. in distance from the commuter rail right-of-way, property values are between $732 and $2,897 higher, all else held equal. These findings validate concerns about the effectiveness of commuter rail service as a catalyst for transit-oriented developments.