Sometimes the Stupid is So Strong it Burns

Hey – I’ve got a great idea. How about you pay 40% over asking for a San Francisco home so that you can be next to an unpublished, privately run shuttle bus location that could be changed, re-routed, or cancelled at any time? Speculation about the impact shuttle stops have had on property values has been going on since at least 2008, but the meme seems to have recently gone national.

Shuttle Bus Stups from SFCTA Strategic Analysis Report, published 2009.

I’m a big fan of mass transit (particularly for other people), and am glad to see private companies step up to provide it for their employees when local and regional transit agencies can’t (or are unwilling or unable to) meet a legitimate need that benefits the public.

My concern is with the wisdom of making a substantial investment in a property either solely (or primarily) based on proximity to a private service that is un-published and subject to change at any time.

Would you buy a house based solely on it’s proximity to a coffee shop where you have a major crush on the hottie who makes your latte each morning?

Would you buy a house because you love the color of the house three doors down?

Would you buy a house because you love the quality of the fruit and produce sold by an unlicensed street vendor on a nearby corner?

– Me

The legal status of private buses using public stops hasn’t even been figured out (although the SF County Transit Authority did publish – in 2009 – a Strategic Analysis Report looking at the Role of Shuttle Services in San Francisco), and while it is highly unlikely that the city will kick the private shuttles out of the public stops, who is to say that they don’t change which stops may be used? Or start charging fees that cause private companies to eliminate some stops or reconfigure their shuttle routes?

There are no guarantees in life, and it can be argued that public bus stops and muni lines are also subject to change (although I’d argue that the higher the investment in infrastructure, the less likely a change is – for example, a bus stop is a whole lot more likely to be relocated than a muni-light rail line or a BART station).

I don’t mean to sound like the cranky old man yelling at the kids to get off my lawn, but real estate is a substantial investment with significant transaction costs (yes, my commission, but also things like transfer tax, title insurance, escrow fees, insurance, and inspections to name just a few).

Make a smart decision. Focus on the fundamentals, and in my opinion shuttle stop proximity isn’t a fundamental. Thoughts?

PS – Bonus points if you can (correctly) answer how to distinguish the Google buses from the Apple buses…


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