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The article originally appeared in ACCESS magazine. ACCESS reports on research funded by the University of California Transportation Center

(ACCESS website)

When the concept of transit-oriented development (TOD) first appeared in the 1980s, many planners and academics enthusiastically endorsed it as a way to increase transit ridership and mitigate sprawl. But actual implementation of TOD projects in Southern California was slow to follow. Developers and funding institutions worried about TODs viability in a region married to the car.

Today, however, the concept of TOD has moved from academic debates to implementation around the country. In Los Angeles County, private developers have built many housing and mixed-use projects near transit stations, and more are planned. Municipalities, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), and even many developers are enthusiastic about building near transit. Why has development around transit become popular? What are the motivations, incentives, constraints, and problems of building adjacent to stations? What strategies will likely attract development around stations?

To address these questions, I will use the examples of two Los Angeles County light-rail lines. The Blue Line, which opened in 1990, connects downtown Los Angeles to downtown Long Beach. This line used the existing right-of-way of an earlier railway. The Blue Line has been operating for 22 years but, by and large, has not catalyzed development around its stations. With the exception of a few TODs, primarily near the Long Beach stations, there has been little development along this transit corridor. On the other hand the Gold Line, which opened in 2003 and links downtown Los Angeles to Pasadena, has generated considerable development around many of its stations. In the thirteen years that separate the inauguration of the two lines, many changes—which are partly responsible for the new-found popularity of TODs—took place in the region.