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Old 08-22-2011, 11:00 PM
 
Location: Oakland, CA
27,165 posts, read 29,650,120 times
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I had to post a story from my local news. For a bit of context, the Bay Area's BART system generally functions as commuter rail, and pretends to be a subway in more urban parts of the Bay Area. The Bay Area is also encouraging and requiring TOD around the stations.

In Dublin (and Pleasanton) this has lead to an explosion of development around the BART station that was formerly surrounded by parking and a military training facility. Now there are new offices, condos and strip malls in the area. Much of this development has occurred over the past 10 years, and the population of Dublin in particular has more than doubled. These towns had more of a rural suburban character before these changes. Livermore is the sister city of that portion of the Bay Area and has a cute, thriving historic downtown business district, a few major employers, wineries and of course suburban style development.

BART construction has not started due some debate over where the station should align, downtown or more like Dublin/Pleasanton along the freeway. The city leadership chose downtown, but some vocal opponents claimed the BART downtown would tear up the area and change the character of downtown. Unfortunately, the council changed its tune and changed the alignment.

http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_18719801

What do you guys think, how should commuter rail work? Act like the center of downtown or a car-centric development easy for commuters?
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Old 08-23-2011, 07:44 AM
 
Location: Boston
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We've had some of this same argument in Boston regarding commuter rail extensions. Whatever happens, hopefully Livermore will not get the "Hingham" solution, which was a suburban park and ride type station outside of the dense, walkable downtown area (where once there was a train station), and a tunnel under downtown to avoid harming the current look and feel of things. This is particularly galling to me, because it enormously added to the cost, and the NIMBY argument was based upon historic preservation, even though there had been an active station there as recently as fifty years earlier.

Do whatever you can to keep Livermore from demanding a more expensive option. Other than that, it doesn't really matter much -- for some towns, a walkable urban area station is best, but that is not universally true.
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Old 08-23-2011, 08:43 AM
 
Location: Oakland, CA
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HenryAlan View Post
We've had some of this same argument in Boston regarding commuter rail extensions. Whatever happens, hopefully Livermore will not get the "Hingham" solution, which was a suburban park and ride type station outside of the dense, walkable downtown area (where once there was a train station), and a tunnel under downtown to avoid harming the current look and feel of things. This is particularly galling to me, because it enormously added to the cost, and the NIMBY argument was based upon historic preservation, even though there had been an active station there as recently as fifty years earlier.

Do whatever you can to keep Livermore from demanding a more expensive option. Other than that, it doesn't really matter much -- for some towns, a walkable urban area station is best, but that is not universally true.
It is tricky, since the freeway alignment will be cheaper since it can remain above the ground. The downtown might need to go underground and deviates from the current freeway alignment. I hope logic prevails.
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Old 08-23-2011, 09:23 AM
 
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Part of the advantage of any rail-based transit is that it tends to spur development. A lot depends on your objective for the nearby area: if the historic downtown was mostly boarded-up vacant buildings with empty lots where some had burned down, then a nearby BART station would spur reinvestment and could be good for the neighborhood, but you'd probably lose more historic fabric too. If the downtown was already thriving and well-maintained, the BART station would probably push out a lot of local businesses and result in speculative demolition of historic fabric. Co-location with the ACE depot makes a certain sort of sense--but it isn't necessarily the only option.

If BART is commuter rail, then the purpose of extensions to places like Livermore is access to commuter markets, not necessarily downtowns--and because they do spur urban development, they can bring investment to areas that were previously underutilized.
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Old 08-23-2011, 11:56 AM
 
Location: Oakland, CA
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wburg View Post
Part of the advantage of any rail-based transit is that it tends to spur development. A lot depends on your objective for the nearby area: if the historic downtown was mostly boarded-up vacant buildings with empty lots where some had burned down, then a nearby BART station would spur reinvestment and could be good for the neighborhood, but you'd probably lose more historic fabric too. If the downtown was already thriving and well-maintained, the BART station would probably push out a lot of local businesses and result in speculative demolition of historic fabric. Co-location with the ACE depot makes a certain sort of sense--but it isn't necessarily the only option.

If BART is commuter rail, then the purpose of extensions to places like Livermore is access to commuter markets, not necessarily downtowns--and because they do spur urban development, they can bring investment to areas that were previously underutilized.
I haven't spent a ton of time in DT Livermore, but there is definitely underutilized space nearby in walking distance of the DT.

I think the Nimbys want to make sure the train station doesn't have much use after the commuter hours. But BART is pretty popular during off hours for airport trips and other items. It definitely doesn't have commute only hours. I think some Livermore people are afraid Livermore will become another Dublin (lots of townhomes and condos around BART and the new neighborhood in East Dublin). There is a lot of resistance from city residents to moving away from the typical suburban character.
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Old 08-23-2011, 01:53 PM
 
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Define "underutilized."

How can you presume to know what people who live there think? Perhaps they actually are interested in protecting the livability of their neighborhood? Would the move decrease the utility of BART that much more, or maybe they would rather see townhomes and condos on top of lots that are currently vacant (the preferred alternative is old industrial area) instead of their historic downtown?
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Old 08-23-2011, 07:25 PM
 
Location: Oakland, CA
27,165 posts, read 29,650,120 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wburg View Post
Define "underutilized."

How can you presume to know what people who live there think? Perhaps they actually are interested in protecting the livability of their neighborhood? Would the move decrease the utility of BART that much more, or maybe they would rather see townhomes and condos on top of lots that are currently vacant (the preferred alternative is old industrial area) instead of their historic downtown?
I have a few friends who live and/or work there. As part of our regional planning process, the Bay Area Govt consortium hosted an open house/feedback session on their plans for region-wide development. 25% of my table was made up of Livermore residents. So my sample size is limited, but seems pretty representative of the general sentiment. Some people are even afraid that "bad" people will have easy access to the quaint downtown.

It is too bad, because the ACE station is already downtown. Then people from let's say Stockton or Tracy could feasibly commute to Oakland or SF without driving.

Underutilized? There are enough empty parcels in the area that could be used for BART co-located with ACE.

One of the largest employers in Livermore is the Lawrence Livermore Labs (sister to the Berkeley Labs) and there is a lot of cross pollination. With better BART alignment, things would work better getting people from the two campuses. (Each offers a shuttle from BART to their respective locations off the beaten path).

The Livermore council had been in full support of the downtown alignment until they reversed the decision due to the community opposition. Most of the regional leadership also agreed with the downtown alignment. It was very popular outside the city. Many of the residents are "old timers." The younger population is much smaller, and the supported of the freeway alignment were generally 45+. With the trend of younger families looking for walkable neighborhoods, this could have accelerated this growth for Livermore, it is in an OK location in the Bay Area, a commute to SF would take about an hour with BART.

In the end the residents "won." Hopefully they don't regret it. A nearby town, Pleasant Hill, went in the direction of downtown alignment and the newly formed commercial district is thriving. There are numerous other examples of BART in the middle of thriving commercial and residnetial districts. (Rockridge in Oakland is a great example it isn't even super dense maybe 10k/sqmi, and mainly single family home in character, but the commercial district surrounds BART and it is a transit hub.)

The Livermore Downtown has the potential to become more of a regional destination, like its neighbor downtown Pleasanton. This decision makes that much harder, since downtown will still an auto-centric area in an auto-centric suburb.

Here is a great blog post outlining why the downtown alignment is a good idea: http://transbayblog.com/2010/07/01/b...ore-extension/
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Old 08-24-2011, 06:58 PM
 
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It should make it easier to commute between suburbs, so stations should be located near employment centers. On the other hand, not everyone lives within walking distance, so there should be some stations with plenty of parking, and they need not be near anything. Inadequate parking is a major factor limiting growth in commuter rail ridership.
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Old 08-26-2011, 01:00 AM
 
Location: Thunder Bay, ON
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I don't understand why people don't like townhomes and midrises. They won't bring in lower-class (if that's what they're afraid of), just about no new building does. My suburb's downtown has had a few new townhomes and condos built in it, and they typically sell for at least $500,000, some were even in the $2,000,000-$3,000,000 range. I think downtown Livermore would be a good choice if it's centrally located (I'm guessing it is) and not significantly more expensive.
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Old 08-31-2011, 12:34 PM
 
Location: Vallejo
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If most of the station users are driving to BART, then putting the station downtown makes little sense. All you do is make a bunch of traffic get off the freeway and drive into the downtown area. I suspect that that's the case with Dublin. There are free shuttles to take the reverse commuters from Dublin/Pleasanton to at least some of the major business parks.
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