Looking Abroad to Understand the Potential Impacts of California High-Speed Rail on Economic Development, Land Use Patterns, and Future Growth of Cities

Research Team: Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris and Giovanni Circella (co-leads)

UC Campus(es): UC Davis, UCLA

Problem Statement: New transportation networks facilitate mobility and may also spur economic development. This was the case with the construction of railway and highway networks in the U.S. during the late 19th and mid-20th century, respectively. Over the past decades, a new transportation technology—high-speed rail (HSR)—has had a profound impact on urban-regional accessibility and intercity travel across Europe and East and South-East Asia. A growing literature shows that HSR systems can also benefit local and regional economies. But the economic and spatial impacts of HSR have been varied and are largely contingent on a variety of factors, as well as local planning and policy. As California is in the process of building its own HSR network, it is important to review the experience of established HSR networks abroad to understand the possible economic effects that HSR can have on regional and local economies. While the impacts of California’s HSR plan on job creation in local markets (e.g., the construction sector) and on the travel sector (e.g., forecasts for HSR travel demand) have been investigated, the possible indirect impacts on land values, tourism, firm location, and local and regional development, among others, have not garnered enough attention.

Project Description: This study will provide guidance for the development of California HSR by undertaking a comprehensive literature review of the economic impacts of existing HSR systems and conducting case studies of HSR station-cities in Europe. The literature review will identify the prerequisites necessary for certain positive economic outcomes for different types of station-cities. The research team will examine the impacts of HSR on construction jobs, but also on post-construction job growth, firm relocation, residential and commercial development, tourism, and population growth. The team will select several individual case studies representing different city typologies with input from the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) and from the study’s advisory panel. The case studies will focus on station-cities that have experienced significant economic benefits since the initiation of HSR to identify how and why these benefits have occurred.

Status: In Progress

Budget: $140,000

Project Partner(s): California High Speed Rail Authority, California State Transportation Agency