From an LA Times writeup of a light rail extension into the San Gabriel Valley that’s just getting under way:
Real estate developers and politicians are hoping the line will pave the way for some new residential and commercial developments in the cities.
Much of their enthusiasm centers around so-called “Transit-Oriented Developments” — the idea that local economies thrive when they offer public transportation, housing, and retail in the same space. Some of these developments would be denser than what the suburban cities are typically used to.
“There’s something about rail that creates an anchor for economic development,” said Michael Cano, transportation deputy to Los Angeles County Supervisor and MTA board member Michael Antonovich.
I don’t know the details of these plans, but I certainly hope that when they say “some” of the transit-oriented development will be denser than non-TOD neighborhoods in the city that they mean “almost all.” After all, the main “something” about rail that “creates an anchor for economic development” is the fact that rail, being a highly space-efficient means of moving people, tends to facilitate dense development. I think rail transit offers a lot of benefits and it makes sense for many municipalities to invest in it, but these benefits don’t arise through magic, they’re mainly realized by zoning for denser development.