When Communities Say “No” To Transit-Oriented Development

In the second part of my interview with Santa Monica Next, I come out swinging against communities that refuse to allow development around rail transit stations (you can read part one here). The prompt was when Santa Monica homeowners rose up last year against a badly needed infill project around the future Expo Line station:

This is not just a Santa Monica problem. You see it in the Bay Area, San Diego, Sacramento. If they aren’t going to do their part to help out with the region’s housing needs and economic challenges, if a community is not willing to allow a development around rail transit networks that the whole region pays for, then I feel they shouldn’t have access to these multibillion dollar investments.

It’s a drag on taxpayers to have to pay for underperforming rail lines. It’s a drag when you don’t have enough riders, and what generates riders are the jobs and housing around the transit stations. If locals don’t allow the jobs and housing to come in, then they are basically telling everyone else to pay for their small group of residents and commuters to have access to a fancy rail line. And, yet, they aren’t willing to make the changes necessary to make the rail line a cost effective investment.

California transit leaders should consider taking this step. The model is in the San Francisco Bay Area, where Metropolitan Transportation Commission leaders adopted a policy to condition future transit spending on local governments planning for station area development. We’re long overdue for the rest of the state following suit.

If a community like Santa Monica refuses to grow around rail transit, then the region should refuse to subsidize their exclusive access to that transit.


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