Tyler Brûlé founded Wallpaper* and Monocle, and has been in a lot of cities and on a lot of trains. He makes a very good point in The Financial Times that just building a transit line isn't enough; it has to be supported by neighbourhood revitalization. He writes:
The only problem with all these lanes and lines being laid around the world is that the destination is frequently neglected. Given all the excitement about how fast a 10-car train can travel from a remote suburb to city centre, or how many people a tram can attract away from their cars, mayors and planners frequently forget about the neighbourhoods and communities that their vehicles stop at.
He talks about Japan, how well developed their train stations are:
City planners would do well to spend a bit of time in Tokyo’s suburbs and take a few cues from the Japanese rail operators who have built whole cities around their suburban stations. Everything from schools to hospitals, grocery stores to nursing homes are built beside and above stations in Japan.
This is very true; in Japan, you can get absolutely anything in a train station, you can pick up your dinner and just walk it home. Where I live, they have built a huge grocery store on top of our local subway station, plus a liquor store and other necessary services. People with transit passes can shop and then get back on the streetcar to finish the trip. (I would have to pay two fares, they should fix that).
It is also a fact that neighbourhood revitalization often follows investment in infrastructure on its own; Again, where I live, condos are being built on every block along our new streetcar line, stores and restaurants are being upgraded daily. The local city councillor, Joe Mihevc, says
“I never had any development applications, Now, one project is done, two are in construction and two more are applying. The St. Clair right of way is functioning exactly as we hoped it would. It has revitalized a tired old street. You can smell the money coming in.”
Tyler Brûlé is absolutely correct; done right, transit systems do a lot more than just get people from A to Z. There is an entire alphabet of things that happen in between and at the ends. More in Financial Times