By Robbie Owens

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CARROLLTON (CBS11) – A university study is now proving what non-stop construction has long suggested—that DART light rail stations are delivering a big economic impact along with commuters.

And while the wait for service has at times seemed long, experts say it’s been worth the wait because light rail brings economic company.

“The Union, which is apartments, new restaurants… we’ve kind of cleaned it up!” said Susan Myers. “We’ve brought a different life into Carrollton.”

Myers runs the Silver Star Mercantile on the revitalized Carrollton Town Square. She says light rail nearby has made visiting the area more convenient.

“Oh, absolutely! If they don’t want to drive in the traffic, they know they can get on the rail,” said Myers.

And there’s a lot to tempt light rail passengers. Experts say throughout the system, development around the stations is booming.

“The volume surprised me,” said Michael Carroll, Director of the UNT Economic Research Group. “It’s difficult to comprehend what a billion means.”

Michael Carroll, PhD, looked at construction projects and impact on property values a quarter mile from DART light rail stations since 1999.

“If you took one of these stations…and put that same amount of development in the Midwest, if you did it in Ohio or Michigan, they would be raving that the state has come back from the economic decline—we’re talking $10 billion dollars total!” said Dr. Carroll. “That’s an awful lot of money!”

According to Dr. Carroll, some $2 billion of that development occurred in the space of just two year… another $1 billion worth of projects is planned for areas surrounding the DART light rail stations.

DART commissioned the study. Still, city leaders can learn a lot. Experts say whether it’s South Dallas or a nearby suburb, it’s key to leverage the development opportunities wisely and design spaces that give commuters a reason to linger.

“It’s going to be great,” said Vicky Davis of Carrollton. “It’s already great… it’s picking up, I think.”

“Once you get on the train, you don’t stop it,” added Myers. “That’s what we’re seeing…progress. It’s progress.”

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