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Rail News: High-Speed Rail

Mineta Transportation Institute issues recommendations for high-speed station planning


California cities proposed as high-speed rail station destinations should begin planning now — and focus attention on how their individual stations can be incorporated into system as a whole, according to a report released recently by the Mineta Transportation Institute.

“Many cities that are station locations have not yet planned for high-speed rail. Those cities that have initiated planning efforts are focusing their attention on their stations as isolated entities in the system and in the city, ignoring the possible complement that adjacent stations on the corridor might provide, and how the station could integrate into the city and region,” according to the report, “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”
In the report, researchers analyze how first-tier cities, or large metropolitan areas, can be linked to second-tier cities, the smaller and more peripheral towns. The high-speed rail system has the potential to increase “both mobility and accessibility in an unprecedented way,” the report states.

The high-speed rail system would compress travel times so cities even 50 miles apart could be considered in the same region. The system could provide opportunities for development around stations, as second-tier cities could provide affordable housing to workers employed in first-tier cities, and residents in smaller cities could take better advantage of the cultural, entertainment and retail centers in metropolitan areas.

The report listed the following recommendations for cities that want to leverage high-speed rail to foster development and growth:

• Each station city should consider its local and regional context and economy.

• Cities should consider the interface of the station itself, district around the station, the municipality and the larger region that includes other stations.

• High-speed rail corridor planning should include centrally locating stations, improving multimodal connectivity, encouraging greater station-area density, and creating an urban design vision and land-use plan for the station area the builds on and complements existing local assets.

• Second-tier cities should consider catalytic projects, complementary planning with first-tier neighboring cities and branding strategies that emphasize their unique offerings and assets.

• Planning for high-speed rail in low-density second-tier cities should take into account not only the immediate station area, but also a five-mile radius around the station location — in particular, the densest nodes of destinations within that wider region for jobs, services and commercial activity.

• Station design should take into account value capture in the surrounding area as a means for the public sector to generate desired development effects.

• To encourage surrounding development, stations should be less internally focused and more externally oriented hubs, and well-connected to the adjacent area and rest of the city through a robust transportation network.

• At a regional level, a joint powers authority consisting of high-level representatives and/or planners from all station cities should be considered to help establish a regional vision for the high-speed rail corridor and set mutually beneficial goals for cities along the line.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 3/9/2012