Joel Epstein  |

In an ideal world, Metro would go out and buy all the land it needs to build lines along the routes where urban density is the greatest. But L.A. long ago ceased to be a city where there is ample undeveloped land and little opposition from residents, business owners and drivers to needed transit improvements.

A case in point is traffic-snarled Santa Monica Boulevard through West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and West L.A. Looking at it today, the reconstructed trunk road, along which a Pacific Electric Railway streetcar once ran, appears to be a sorely missed opportunity to build transit and TODs along the boulevard. But the idea of asking West Hollywood to give up its tree-lined median or Beverly Hills, its parking lots serving South Santa Monica Blvd merchants, underscores the challenge Metro faces in L.A.’s built environment.

TOD planning grants

One initiative Metro is pursuing to improve transit’s chances is its Local Planning Grant Program. The new effort is a competitive grant program designed to promote TOD development by encouraging communities to enact TOD-friendly building codes and regulations. The grants provide the winning communities with funds to go out and look at parking codes, last mile connections (how people get from the rail station or bus stop to their home), greater density around transit and better bike and pedestrian linkages to the rail and bus system.

There are also new requirements in the Federal Transportation Administration’s (FTA) New Starts program that require transit agency applicants for federal funding to look at the impact of their projects on development and make changes that promote TOD. {…}