Los Angeles, widely recognized for traffic congestion and unhealthy air quality, has embarked over the past few years on an aggressive expansion of our regional transit system. In November 2008, voters approved Measure R by an amazing two-thirds majority, committing a projected $40 billion to traffic relief and transportation upgrades throughout the county over the next 30 years. Reducing our auto dependency though viable transit alternatives is a major goal. But creating a more walkable city that promotes healthier lifestyles is also critical. The County of Los Angeles with more than 100 new transit stations has concentrated their planning efforts around stations to both support the infrastructure investment and to generate ridership. This limited view is insufficient to meet our larger objectives.
The City of L.A. and ULI-LA believe those goals can be better advanced by expanding our planning agenda from individual transit stations to entire transit corridors. The partnership would move the public dialogue from a simple development agenda to a broader urban design agenda that provides linkages between stations, improves access to stations, provides walkable streetscapes and improves the mix of uses along the corridors. This would greatly increase the number of residents who would see personal benefit from the transit planning.
The City of L.A. has formed an internal cabinet of department managers to specifically address the corridor agenda. The Metropolitan Transit Authority also participated. The City has contracted with Robert Cevero, a well-known transportation expert, to identify actions that the City could take to concentrate efforts along the corridors. More than 150 actions have been identified.
The head of the City Planning Commission and staff from the City Mayor’s office approached ULI-LA to partner with the City to convene development experts largely from our membership to review the action items and issue a formal report back to the City with both an evaluation and prioritization of the actions.
In 2012, ULI-LA received funding from the ULI Foundation through the Urban Innovation Grant Program to convene a group of ULI members and government advisors to analyze transit corridors in Los Angeles. ULI-LA’s working group identified three prototypical corridor segments and selected three teams of professionals to study them, identify the roles they play in the transit system, and develop strategies to enhance the corridors as a means of increasing transit ridership.
ULI-LA convened three teams of ULI members with varied expertise. Each team analyzed a prototypical corridor and determined strategies that will enhance the corridors and encourage desirable development. Based on what the teams learn they also prioritized the 150 actions the City should concentrate their efforts. The first two studies were convened on June 2013. The third study occurred in late August 2013.
The “2013 Transit Corridors Report,” produced in partnership between the city of Los Angeles and the ULI-LA, lays out a new vision, in which increased ridership and its corollary, reduced vehicle miles travelled (VMT), can be better advanced by expanding the planning agenda from individual transit stations to the transit corridors that connect and support the stations. This transit corridor perspective would move the public dialogue from a simple development agenda to a broader urban design agenda that would link stations, improve neighborhood access to stations, provide walkable streetscapes, and locate the best possible, context-sensitive uses for each corridor. Improving the function and aesthetics of the corridors between and near each of the stations will facilitate wider capture of transit ridership and greatly increase the number of residents benefitting personally from the transit system.