Assessing the Broader Equity Benefits of California’s High-Speed Rail Project

Research Lead: Mark Hansen

UC Campus(es): UC Berkeley

Problem Statement: A major criticism of California’s High-Speed Rail (HSR) project is that it will mainly serve urban elites that frequently travel long distances, and that low-income people and people of color likely won’t be able to afford the fares. However, while the Environment Impact Report for the HSR project does discuss whether construction and operation of the project would result in disproportionately high and adverse effects on minority and low-income populations, very few studies have analyzed the project’s broader equity impacts.

Project Description: This project will study the potential benefits of HSR systems to communities of concern, in particular, whether HSR systems can improve their accessibility to employment opportunities, educational opportunities, and medical care. Furthermore, the project will explore what actions can be taken to increase the value of HSR to communities of concern and how these actions may enhance the benefits they realize from the project. The research team will review relevant academic literature, project documents, international HSR equity impact studies, and equity impact studies of other transportation modes, to provide a better understanding of equity considerations in planning for HSR, the realized equity impacts of foreign HSR systems, as well as current transportation equity analysis practices. The research team will also interview members of communities of concern to learn their opinions of HSR and will quantify the potential benefits of HSR systems to those communities in terms of accessibility to different types of opportunities once the project begins operations, considering both out-of-pocket costs and time savings. Accessibility will be measured for different stages of the project, across different regions, and among different socioeconomic groups. This project will also examine how different actions (i.e., land use changes, road pricing policies) may improve accessibility benefits to different communities.

Status: In Progress

Budget: $61,875

Project Partner(s): California High-Speed Rail Authority; Office of Assembly Member Joaquin Arambula