We can’t be the best at everything—but we certainly hope we’re never the worst. Unfortunately, one of our own was called just that as the Wardlow Station, part of the Long Beach stretch of the Blue Line, was named the worst Metro station in the county.
An analysis of the state’s rail transit systems, conducted by way of a partnership between nonprofit Next 10 and UC Berkeley and dubbed Grading California’s Rail Transit Station Areas, not only decided to look at what hubs are thriving but which station areas need improvement.
What, exactly, makes a good station versus a bad station? Transit stations that perform well tend to be located in urban centers—a key distinction with the Wardlow station as compared to stations that received A grades like DTLA’s 7th St./Metro station— and transit-oriented neighborhoods—North Long Beach’s disconnection in general to biking and walking infrastructure screams volumes, especially when attached to access to housing, shopping/entertainment, places of work and other amenities.
“Most low-performing stations are on the outer edges of rail systems, often situated in low-density, industrial or auto-oriented neighborhoods,” said Next 10 founder F. Noel Perry in a statement.
What this points to is not just a need to reexamine the connectivity of North Long Beach—in the words of 7th District Councilmember Al Austin, “This is yet another reason why Long Beach needs a voice at the MTA Board table”—but the Blue Line as a whole.
The report divided rail transit station areas into three types: residential, employment, and mixed, and calculated grades based on 11 key indicators including walkability, ridership levels, existing land-use and permitting policies, affordability and transit quality.
The highest grade in the state overall? San Francisco Municipal Railway’s (MUNI) Market Street and Church Street station, which “performs the best overall when it comes to connecting riders to key amenities, cutting the environmental impact of transportation and contributing to a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly community.”
The worst in the state? San Diego Metropolitan Transit System’s Gillespie Field Station due to “lack of ridership and access to amenities and services.”
LA Metro overall sat right in the middle, with an overall grade of C.
Other highlights of the report:
- As mentioned, MUNI’s Market Street and Church Street station scored a chart-topping A+ thanks to a near-perfect walkability score and a high rate of transit use and zero-vehicle households in a half-mile radius around the station.
- No MUNI station received a failing grade, though the Third Street and Marin Street station received a D, the system’s lowest score, for lack of walkability and amenities.
- San Francisco’s Powell Street BART station scored a high for walkability and levels of ridership while the South San Francisco BART station scored low primarily for low usage by residential riders and limited access to amenities.
- The Santa Clara VTA’s Japantown/Ayer Station performed the best system wide, receiving a B+ from the researchers, while the Middlefield Station, located in a low-density area toward the edge of the system’s service area scored low across all indicators.
- San Diego’s Gillespie Field Station, located in a car-dependent area, received an F- scoring poorly across the board.
- The Los Angeles area’s best-scoring Station is LA Metro’s Westlake/MacArthur Park station, which scores high on diversity of destinations, walkability, transit access, and affordability, but gets a poor safety score because of crime.
- Sacramento’s Longview Drive and I-80 station is next to a major interstate, and is used for park-and-ride services. But it is the region’s lowest-scoring area in terms of fostering a vibrant transit neighborhood, with very low train use among local residents and workers.
- The San Joaquin Valley is California’s fastest-growing region, but lacks rail transit. Researchers analyzed key busy bus station areas instead, awarding them separate grades ranging from B to D.
We can do better, Long Beach.