The transit stations of Los Angeles County Metro Rail earned just an average score — a 'C' — in a new statewide study released Tuesday.
The report looked at neighborhoods within a half mile radius of rail transit stations across California, with grades calculated using available data organized into five categories of metrics:
- transit (safety, quality and level of use by residents and workers)
- land use and design (walkability and total of jobs and households per acre)
- policy and market context (policy support for transit-oriented development and market performance in real estate)
- equity (affordability and dependency)
- health and environmental impact (greenhouse gas emissions)
The report was prepared by the Center for Law, Energy and the Environment at the UC Berkeley School of Law on behalf of Next10, an organization focused on public policy. Next10 was founded by venture capitalist F. Noel Perry, who backed educational company Leap Frog among other endeavors.
Westlake/MacArthur Park topped L.A. Metro’s stations despite receiving a low score on safety. It performed well on the diversity of destinations, walkability, transit access, and affordability. The Wardlow Station in Long Beach ranked last.
"Even though the Westlake/MacArthur Park station did score high on crime, it was competing against other stations throughout California," said the study's lead author Ethan Elkind, associate director of the climate change and business program at the UC Berkeley School of Law. "In many of these urban areas, you're just going to see more instances of crime as opposed to a desolate area without many pedestrians where there really aren't enough human interactions to even have much of a crime statistic."
As for the Wardlow Station, Elkind said location played the biggest factor.
"You don't really see a lot of residents or employees in the area and if there are, they're not riding the transit line by any great margins," he said. "It's not stimulated any kind of development or neighborhood type activity around it. That's really the challenge of Wardlow and other stations that scored poorly."
Credit: Next 10
Is it fair to compare more compact areas to sprawling regions like Los Angeles?
Cal Hollis, managing executive officer for countywide planning at Metro, told the Los Angeles Times that the grading factors favored more densely populated areas like San Francisco.
Elkind said that the report really isn't meant to be a criticism of Metro. He also acknowledged that San Francisco has had a head start with its transit system, which he said was built largely before the automobile's rise to prominence.
"In that sense it's not exactly fair," said Elkind. "But I think it's fair in the sense that both regions in the state are investing heavily in rail transit. If we're going to spend a lot in rail transit then we ought to make sure we have a commitment to seeing those station areas really develop into thriving hubs. And without that commitment from local leaders, it's going to be really challenging to see much of the return on the investment for rail."
Elkind also said that the study relied on data from 2010, and Los Angeles has since been in a building boom for rail transit. The report didn't take into account, for instance, the Eastside Gold Line extension and the Expo Line that's going to open in Santa Monica next year.
"The system is really on its way and about to be really filled out for the first time in its history," he said.
"Unfortunately there have been setbacks too," Elkind said. "If you look at Santa Monica, for example, a project that would've located a lot of jobs and new housing around the future Expo Line station was shot down by the local government."
He added, "Those kinds of incidences and thwarting of development are really going to hurt the system's overall effectiveness, costing taxpayers money and pushing development farther and farther out, which is not the trend that we want to see things go in Los Angeles."
Here's the full report: