The price effects found by this analysis suggest that the Orange Line has fed rapid price appreciation within the corridor upon operation, provide evidence that access to light rail has been capitalized in the housing market. On one level, this may be construed as an indicator of the line’s success—an indication that market actors collectively value this capital expenditure. Such a relationship raises some serious equity issues, however; increased home prices will tend to displace the lower income, transit-dependent residents who most benefit from increased transit access, at least in the absence of significant ameliorative public policy. The Orange Line was envisioned as the catalyst for the creation of desirable places, but the implications of desirability within a market economy were left uncontemplated during the planning process. Instead, TriMet and the Cities of Portland and Milwaukie were chiefly concerned with making sure that light rail “paid off” in terms of generating real estate investment, creating station area assessments of development possibilities and the capital expenditures which would be most likely to overcome limitations to development. Treating development itself as a policy benefit raises some very problematic tendencies; the feasibility of development is driven fundamentally by the rents one is able to attain, making these price effects a possible unstated benefit of light rail, in the eyes of agencies geared towards increasing transit-oriented development.
This brings us to a broader point about the dilemma faced by cities working under a neoliberal regime. Investments in amenities that are valued by people are valued by the market, generating a contradiction between aims to enhance the attractiveness/accessibility of areas and the maintenance of affordability. Solving the inequities resulting from the very functioning of the political-economic system is undoubtedly beyond the reach of an individual municipality; even amelioration of the inequalities of housing access in relation to public transit (e.g. through inclusive zoning or public housing near transit) is admittedly constrained by the market orientation and constraints of municipalities. Nevertheless, this does not absolve cities of responsibility for the spillover price effects of their investments; the spillover price effects of light rail need to be incorporated into the planning process explicitly, alongside a mechanism to capture these price increases to fund affordable housing provision.