Will California’s second-tier HSR cities reap big-city rewards sans certain big-city headaches?

At the California Progress Report, in “City, County Growth and High-Speed Rail Development a ‘Two-Way Street,’” I wanted to know if the California high-speed rail project was going to affect growth – development, land use, transportation – around stations and, if it is going to, how.

320px-FLV_California_train[1]I wrote: “In search of answers, I consulted the Mineta Transportation Institute’s (MTI) ‘Planning for Complementarity: An Examination of the Role and Opportunities of First-Tier and Second-Tier Cities Along the High-Speed Rail Network in California,’ study released just this month, among other sources.”

The month in question is March of 2012.

I had this to say also: “And because bullet trains will enter the Valley from the north, west and south, once built and perhaps even prior to, Valley cities, particularly those with stations, may see land-use patterns change considerably, the kind of change that encourages more pedestrian- and transit-friendly, higher-density, mixed-use infill or brownfield development, the HSR component having the potential to be the impetus for such.”

One year later, the conversation resumes.

So, in the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) news release “High-speed rail study finds that remote cities benefit from connection to global hubs,” provided is added perspective.

Article author Alison Hewitt in this article opens with this thought: “Bullet trains fuel real-estate booms, improve quality of life and create other unintended consequences by sharply reducing commute times from smaller cities to large megacities, economists from UCLA and China’s Tsinghua University observed in a new study in China. A similar dynamic, they said, could play out as California builds its own high-speed rail system.”

So, now I’m thinking: Is the experience with other countries’ high-speed rail systems similar to those experienced in China in regard to its HSR systems?

Getting the answer to this will have to wait, although Hewitt did point out, “The authors studied second-tier cities in China like Shijiazhuang, Qinhuangdao, Cangzhou and Yangquan and observed that bullet trains gave those cities new access to megacities like Beijing,” and also wrote that the study’s two authors – Matthew Kahn and Siqi Zheng – investigated what are referred to here as the “bullet trains’ unintended side effects.”

In essence what is being alluded to and having to do with what the study’s authors found, according to what Hewitt wrote, is the smaller so-called “second-tier” distant cities, on the path of the HSR line situated anywhere from about 60 to 470 miles away from the megalopolises, are offered “first-tier” city advantages with added pluses such as more affordable housing and both less crowding and less air and water pollution.

Wrote Hewitt: “In places like California where high-speed rail is planned, proposed stations could create booms for second-tier cities, like Palmdale and Bakersfield near Los Angeles, the authors said. This would improve quality of life by easing congestion in the major cities while giving more isolated cities greater access to metropolitan hubs. As the authors observed in China, lower housing costs initially attract new residents, creating a housing boom that will benefit the second-tier cities.”

It’d still be interesting to learn if second-tier cities on the high-speed rail system maps of other countries in both Asia and Europe are similarly enjoying the same so-called “bullet trains’ unintended side effects” that China’s distant cities dotting the HSR lines there are.

A similar study or further research conducted along these lines might just be in order.

This post was last revised on May 27, 2020 @ 8:17 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time.

– Alan Kandel

1 thought on “Will California’s second-tier HSR cities reap big-city rewards sans certain big-city headaches?”

  1. Would be great to see. Now what is being built so far is to serve the Moscow-St.Petersburg, Helsinki-St.Petersburg, Moscow-Nizhni Novogorod, and Sochi corridors, but I bet the best eereninging feat for High Speed Rail in Russia would be to upgrade their biggest line, Moscow-Vladivostok, for High Speed Freight and Passenger service.

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