"The biggest misconception about transit is it's the reason development happens," said Russ, a planner in an American company, Glatting Jackson, who has designed rail lines in Charlotte, Pittsburgh and Orlando and stations in Denver.Much development we've seen with recent light rail lines has been from the ability to expand the sphere of a market like downtown, but not change it. The line also has the power to shape an existing market. This is what the Portland Streetcar did when it pushed most of the development in downtown for the last decade along its corridor. I also believe that the streetcar allowed the market in Portland to feed on itself creating a synergy that wasn't possible without it or regulations that shaped growth around it.
So I would urge caution when pumping up that local light rail project or streetcar as the answer to a lack of development pressure. Alone without other regulatory help that swings the pendulum away from today's road paradigm, the tracks will lay dormant. But if you can figure out where the market is going to be next and lay down the rules, it's likely that shaping the development will be as easy as aligning poles on a magnet.