LA’s suburbs are becoming surprisingly urban

I grew up in Glendora, a suburb of Los Angeles that epitomized car-centric sprawl. Though there are good things about that part of California, urban design is not one of of them. And in Glendora, that’s still mostly the case.

But during a recent visit I was astonished to see neighboring Azusa becoming surprisingly urban, at least in terms of infrastructure. The main street — a mostly car-crushed and dilapidated place — is about to get a train station:


The train station isn’t finished yet, but when it is it will link sleepy, suburban Azusa with the greater Los Angeles area. By train. For a place that historically epitomized car culture, that’s not bad.

Even more interesting is what has sprung up right next to the train station:


This target is already open and fully operational.

This is more or less a “city” target, meaning it’s not ringed with parking like more suburban designs. There are similar Target stores the downtowns of major cities like San Francisco and Seattle. The store in the picture above has parking, but it’s below the store, on the ground level where you see the arch.

Here’s another picture:



What’s remarkable is that Azusa is still very car-oriented and there’s still space there, meaning Target could probably have found a spot for a more typical store.

But for some reason that’s not what happened.

This design, with the parking on the ground floor and the store above, seems like the perfect solution for keeping everyone happy. There’s still plenty of space for cars — seriously, the lot is massive — but the wasteland-like expanses of normal parking structures are avoided. This solution is also presumably much cheaper than building actual underground parking.

It’s also impressive that this went in before the train station.

I don’t know why we don’t see more of this in Utah. Obviously no one can force a store to come to a community (and I have no inherent love of Target in particular), but in general we’re seeing long delays between when we build our transit infrastructure and when we actually see any transit-oriented development. The Frontrunner south line from Salt Lake to Provo has been done for more than a year now and I haven’t even heard of any preliminary proposals. Moreover, Salt Lake Central has been functioning for some time now (I don’t know how long, but years) and it’s still ringed with empty lots, homeless shelters and crime. It’s a wasteland.

By contrast Azusa, a smaller and poorer city than Salt Lake, already has a vastly more vibrant train station. What’s going on?


One comment

  1. Aaron Guile

    K. I live in the Boulders close to the Provo Trax station. Many of the people I go to church with are resentful of the Trax because they feel it was forced/foisted on them. I love the Trax and I love the urban train systems of New York, London, Seoul and Tokyo where I’ve lived or done business, but when people feel like they are forced into something or are being punished for dissent, they will do anything to avoid they cause of their discomfort. Stupid really. I take the Trax all the time when I want to get to Salt Lake and the train is almost always full, but recently when I had to drive up there, I noticed i15 was still busy at Point of the Mountain. Obviously, many people who could use the Trax are not and from what people around me say, it is because “know-it-all” liberals are wasting their tax-dollars and so those same speakers won’t reward the system that is “stealing” from them with usage. I think this sentiment is r-tarded, but common enough that “train culture” is a long way off for Utah Valley at least. Too bad, really.

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