Friday, December 11, 2009

Is Transit Rapid?

Not in LA. The metro busses lumber about on a semi-regular basis, and the light rail is also light-years from being a functional system. You can't get here from there on the Light Rail system; it's transfer, transfer, transfer.

While this transit system is still in its infancy, some local and regional efforts have started to pay off in changing the car culture. UCLA has managed to reduce traffic with careful coordination and planning to relieve a nightmarish parking situation on campus. It takes advantage of incentives, strong management, and strategic planning that targets the existing bottlenecks and increases service to cut down on automobile traffic.

Some local community planning efforts have also integrated the LA light rail system to good effect, with some small-scale infill development centered around the rail stops. This takes several years of planning and integration to achieve effective results.

Now California is about to put transit-oriented development on steroids by forcing housing and commercial/retail quotas into the city General Plans via SB 375. There should be careful study of transit linkages as well as a consensus on sustainable growth in communities. Unfortunately under this legislation the development gets ramrodded into any areas considered to be transit ways; it requires build out of large masses of mixed-use development within 18 months of adopting the SCAG quotas in the General Plans.

This makes no sense.

Slamming this kind of overdevelopment into urban areas does not change the form of sprawl, it just magnifies the problem and dumps tremendous amounts of traffic into one area as well as intensifying regional traffic. The linkages have to be in place, designed for the transit load. If the volume is increased drastically, the "pipe size" has to be quadrupled and replaced immediately, and the "outflow" impacts both ends of the pipe. There is also the major question about the effectiveness of public transit itself; it's just not that effective.

So there is a serious fallacy in this legislation, which unfortunately will be very destructive to communities and urban areas with the overdevelopment load on their infrastructure and available land. One would hope that the legislature will be brought to its senses before this becomes implemented.