The West Santa Ana Branch (WSAB) transit line is a planned 20-mile transit line extending from Downtown Los Angeles to the cities of Cerritos and Artesia. The proposed line extends through heavily industrial areas as well as areas characterized by auto-oriented, suburban development. It passes through 14 southeast Los Angeles cities and county jurisdictions, many of which are low to moderate -income, predominantly Hispanic communities, with a number of diverse, optimistic visions for the future of their communities. As part of a Corridor Wide TOD Implementation Plan, HR&A is developing a holistic land use and economic revitalization strategy for the 15 stations and 14 communities along the line.
Principal Judith Taylor, HR&A’s project manager for this assignment, shares her insights on the future of the WSAB line and how HR&A is setting these communities up for success.
1. How does this project differ from a typical TOD project?
This is an innovative project from LA Metro – the first of its kind. A traditional TOD project only looks at the immediate station. Our team’s goal is to perform an integrated analysis that encompasses the 14 communities along the WSAB line. We are planning at the corridor level to ensure the whole area functions congruently. Rather than being in competition with one another, each station area and their surrounding communities can be positioned to complement one another.
2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing corridor-wide vs individual station area TOD studies?
The biggest advantage of a corridor-wide strategy is the opportunity for collaboration among the cities and jurisdictions. By working together, communities are able to understand how they fit within the broader region and how they can better capitalize on their strengths. However, there is no “one size fits all” solution. Many of the cities are in different stages with varying capacities for development, so we need to take this diversity into account as we create the tools and strategies each city can use to implement their plans. The success of this project will be defined by each of the cities translating the toolkits we develop into policy instruments that advance their implementation goals.
3. The Metro West Santa Ana branch project is built through a heavy industrial area, how has this affected analysis?
There are locations along the line that wish to remain industrial and it is our goal to understand how they integrate into the ecosystem of the other stations. We are examining what transit means for the employers in these heavily industrial areas so we can encourage connectivity and mobility between workers and industry. The integration of active transportation for pedestrians and bikes are a priority along the corridor, particularly in places such as the industrial areas where very little of such infrastructure exists. For example, some residents may prefer to commute via bike, so we are exploring how to best incorporate bike paths with roads that accommodate trucks and heavy machinery.
4. How will this study help Metro and the municipalities along the corridor adjust for the risks that new investment can present for existing communities that transit is ostensibly built to help? How does equity shape HR&A’s approach in this case?
We are working to ensure the tools and strategies we develop for these cities support equity, affordable housing, workforce training, and diverse economic opportunities for residents. We are also taking measures to educate the cities about the potentially transformative effects of new transit, so they have an opportunity to anticipate changes. Even though this strategy may not be fully implemented for another 25 years, it is important that the cities think and plan ahead to maximize the positive impacts of future transit access in their communities
5. This is a massive regional project, what are the plans and timeline for implementation?
Over the past several months, WSAB has become a regional priority. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has added this project to his “28 by 28” agenda that outlines 28 key transportation projects that are to be prioritized before the 2028 Olympics. Also, the WSAB’s arrival to Downtown aligns with many of the improvements that are needed to integrate light and heavy rail systems seamlessly into a 21st century mobility hub.