Thursday, May 21, 2009

More than intent needed to ride Gold Line extension

I applaud the Gold Line Construction Authority and Citrus's College student efforts to raise the attention of public transportation investments in the Foothill corridor. However, their "I will ride" campaign should be an "I would ride" campaign. Students support the proposed line as, it would serve the Citrus College campus. These students probably easily envision walking, biking, or driving to a gold line station, taking the line to Citrus Ave, then walking the 1/3 to 1/2 mile to their destination on campus. However, most of these students will be gone in two years. If the these students and the Gold Line's supporters really want to ride the line, they should lobby their local city councils for land use policies which support light rail use, so that they will have ample reason and opportunity to ride when the Gold Line extension is built.
People travel because they want to get from here to there. There would be no sense in riding the Gold Line extension if it does not go where the supporters want to go. No one with a car at their disposal wants to upwards of walk a mile and a half to and from a station to get to their final destination. Thus, it is critical to concentrate housing, jobs, and places people want to go near the future stations, so that someone can get on the train in Glendora and go grab dinner and watch a movie in Claremont. If the “heres” and “theres” in the future Foothill Corridor are not near proposed Gold Line stations, then fixed-route light rail would be difficult to use for such a trip.

For light rail to have enough “heres” and “theres” around stations to be viable (still subsidized by local sales and property taxes, but high enough ridership to offer frequent service), the area around the stations should have roughly twenty housing units per acre. This type of land use allows people to buy or rent near a station so that they easily take advantage of all benefits the line has to offer. With fewer people living near stations, generally a line would require such a high subsidy to operate (at least 4 to and as much as 10 times the price of a ticket), that during times of budget cuts the line’s operator would not be able to offer frequent enough service to get people on the train. No one wants to wait 30 minutes to take a train. Those who did want to near stations would have to pay higher prices for rent and houses because of the low supply of housing in the area.

A previous generation of Citrus College students missed a great opportunity to promote the land uses necessary to give residents access to the light rail line. The Rosedale master-planned community is a new 518-acre neighborhood currently under construction right across the street from Citrus College and adjacent to the proposed Gold Line station at Citrus Ave. When completed, the neighborhood will have about 2.5 houses per acre – far below what will be needed to, in the future, house even a fraction of the 28,000 students currently attending colleges within 1/2 a mile of a proposed station.

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