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Thread: LRT and built form impacts, Los Angeles

  1. #1

    LRT and built form impacts, Los Angeles

    Hello everyone,

    I'm based in Toronto and I'm trying to do a little bit of research on some LRT projects.

    Can anyone provide me with some insights (and also URLs or print article references) about how LRT has impacted the built form of Los Angeles? Is it increasing density in corridors? Are there any key neighborhoods or station areas you'd suggest I look at as examples?

    Has LA used an integrated approach to urban design, land use and LRT system planning? Has LRT in any way revolutionized the way that land use is planned for?

    Many thanks in advance,

  2. #2
    Cyburbian cellophane's avatar
    Jan 2009
    louisville, ky
    its not in LA - but the rail system they built in Dallas a few years back has been wildly successful and there is some very obvious growth along the lines.

    i dont know much about the other questions though

  3. #3
    Mod Gedunker's avatar
    Aug 2003
    The Wonderland Way
    Moderator note:
    ~Gedunker~ Hi, sparklite -- I've deleted the reference post you posted in the Transportation Planning subforum. Our Forum Rules do not permit cross-posting threads. If you ever need assistance with which subforum to locate a thread in, please feel free to contact a moderator or administrator for assistance. Thanks and carry on!
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  4. #4
    Sparklite... are you talking about the proposed or existing lines?

    Either way, unless it is a specialized overlay district... the short answer is "No."

    Proposed, and more than likely happening, is the creation / extension on the Santa Monica Line that will run parallel to I-10 from Downtown to Santa Monica. While it will bring moderate traffic relief and some mild neighborhood changes... it more or less is built along the wall that is I-10. Residents to the north will have a hard time accessing it and even then those residents may not want easy access as it runs along the border between the "good side" of the valley and the "bad side" of the valley.

    This area could be a hot bed for activity since you have some of the most important districts getting a radical modification-- Culver City, Palms, Ladera, Rancho Park, Cheviot Hills, West LA, Jefferson and "South Central."

    But density and neighborhood changes? The infrastructure is pretty weak and ugly throughout this area. Ladera Heights looks like hell on earth and Culver City is pretty messed up too-- South Central needs no explanation if you have listened to hip-hop in the last 10 years.

    But overall, Los Angeles County has some ridiculous height restrictions and density regulations that would have prevented any noticeable change from past LRT projects.

    They just had a design competition for ARCHITECTS to do the planning and design for the new LRT lines. I forget the name but SCI-ARC and a few others were behind it.

  5. #5
    The LRT has been credited with sparking new development along the Gold Line to Pasadena, though the big retail of old pasadena predates the opening of the LRT

  6. #6
    Cyburbian JimPlans's avatar
    Aug 2006
    Gone to a better place (in my mind)
    Does LRT ever actually spark development on its own? Streetcars have, just look at Portland for a mature example or Tampa (Channelside) for an emerging one. But LRT systems seem to be designed more for commutes to/from a place than for commutes within/through a place.

    Streetcars are woven into the fabric of a place, and that place can grow (if zoning allows it) to take advantage of the system. LRT just drops people at one point in one place, which at most can allow for some TOD within close proximity. Not that that is a bad thing (it isn't), but I don't think the point of LRT is to spark development, while that is a selling point for streetcars.

    I ride the LRT in Baltimore every day and I don't see any evidence of development sparked by that line, and it's been around since 1992 (Clipper Mill may be an exception). I feel the same way about the Baltimore Metro system, which has been around since 1983.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
    Feb 2007
    Playing at a movie theater near you
    San Francisco is looking at it's 3rd Street Light Rail expansion as a means to revitalize neglected and underserved neighborhoods south of the China Basin. Try researching that one as well.
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  8. #8
    Feb 2007
    San Francisco, CA
    I'll echo a bit of what JimPlans said (sort of), with my knowledge of San Francisco's new T-3rd St line, as well as VTA (Santa Clara County, CA - San Jose area) light rail.

    In SF, the T operates more as a streetcar with fancy stops (the stops are every 1/3 mile or so along most of the line). Right now the line is too slow to be used effectively for long distance travel to downtown (it's slower than the bus that it replaced), because the stops are too numerous. However, there is a lot of development going on around it - however, this is mostly just because areas around it were upzoned in height, density allowances, etc. The development likely would have happened without the LRT line if the same upzoning had happened. However, the T project included a lot of sidewalk, lighting, and landscaping improvements too, which have helped as well.

    For VTA, a similar situation has happened. The LRT lines there, especially in San Jose and Mountain View, had a lot of underutilized land around where they were built. The cities upzoned the land significantly and there has been pretty much continuous development somewhere along the LRT lines down there for 20 years. However, again the development was more spurred by the upzoning than it was the LRT line itself (as can be seen by other areas in San Jose that were also upzoned by not near a current LRT line).

    One thing similar about both (and I would assume about the LA system as well) is that the building of the LRT systems helped increase the political will and public support for upzoning, so in that way they have spurred development. The demand for housing is so high in both areas that maximum height and density allowances are almost always used, so anything that allows those to be increased will spur more total housing in that particular area (and it is typically required to be built in an urban form with mixed uses on the ground floor).

  9. #9
    CJC made me think about San Jose's Winchester (Vasona) LRT line, which I am very familiar with because my mother lives near one of the stops. Both San Jose and Campbell upzoned parcels around stops in anticipation of the line. Its hard to say if they would have done so otherwise. In particular, downtown Campbell is a much more vibrant area than it was a couple of years ago because of the stop there. On the other hand, EBay moved to the office complex near one of the other stops well in advance of any plan to build the line.

  10. #10
    Sep 2003
    Baltimore, Maryland
    Three points you might want to explore, sparklite:

    1) Leveraging The Lines: This is the biggest point--LRT is an asset that needs to be actively used and leveraged, not just built and left there to "work some magic." As CJC and Gotta said, San Jose changed the zoning around its LRT lines to encourage infill development. Here in Maryland, on the other hand, neither Baltimore City nor County (they are two seperate entities--the independant City is for all practical purposes its own county) made any such effort to leverage either the Light Rail or Metro as assets to attract development. They have hardly even tried anything to improve the neighborhoods the lines run through--much of West Baltimore was rotting or at risk before Metro was built, and it was still left to rot for years afterward. Only in the last few years have we had any movement to leverage the lines, with development around Owings Mills Metro station in the planning stage, and also Clipper Mill. From the posts here, (and elsewhere), Los Angeles sounds like it's been acting more like Baltimore.

    2) Function: Jim pointed out a difference in function between two types of LRT: Streetcars, which are local neighborhood-servers, and full LRT, which is more metropolitan and commuter-oriented (though not nearly as exclusively so as, say, commuter rail itself.)

    3) The System/Connectivity: At least LA's LRT lines are linked together into an large system connecting many neighborhoods and destinations; as long as transfers are quick and easy (I don't know if LA's MTA does so), that helps more people travel to more places and boosts ridership, and more people flowing to and from the stations can attract more development. Baltimore's LRT and Metro, on the other hand, are lonely, weakly connected starter lines serving only a handful of places each, reducing the potential pool of riders and stunting growth potential.

    Good luck with your research!

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