Op-Ed Supports Value Capture-Enabled Transit Investments

Two USC professors argue that Los Angeles would be better served if Metro could recapture some of its investment in the county's expanding rail system.

2 minute read

May 31, 2016, 12:00 PM PDT

By Elana Eden


Transit Oriented Development

Angel DiBilio / Shutterstock

In light of the extensions of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (Metro) extension of the Gold and Expo lines this year, USC professors Marlon Boarnet and Gary Painter want to ensure that the benefits of Metro investments get back to L.A. communities.

In a Los Angeles Times op-ed, the authors note areas in the city where rail investment has helped to drive up the value of land and to fuel development. Metro has helped to generate that value, they argue, so Metro should be able to recoup some of it for the benefit of the city—especially areas neglected by other investment:

"Fairness suggests that the taxpayers who are footing the bill for the transit lines should share in the wealth that rail creates."

The authors look to Hong Kong and Brazil for successful value-capture programs, but ultimately endorse a local solution: Enhanced Infrastructure Financing Districts (EIFDs).

If Metro could establish EIFDs surrounding stations throughout the rail system, the agency could capture the tax increment from the increase in land value created by its projects.

The revenue could go toward building affordable housing (Metro's Joint Development Program currently has a target of 35 percent affordable units per project), parks, further transportation improvements, or any number of things.

As the authors point out, all this would make Metro "much more than a people-mover"—a direction the agency has already been moving in, with its stated attention to gentrification and policy of fostering transit-oriented communities.

EIFDs are still new, and few have taken shape in urban areas, although one has been proposed around the L.A. River.

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