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Comparative Domestic Policy Program

Policy Brief
February 7, 2011

Summary: This policy brief ex- Planning High Speed Rail Stations for
amines European best practices
regarding urban integration of Sustainable Urban Development:
high speed rail (HSR) stations
to maximize local economic and European Case Studies
sustainable urban development
benefits. The research goal was by Matt Nichols1
to identify lessons for cities in
North America, especially in Cali-
fornia, to achieve sustainable Introduction
Japan opened the first HSR system, the
development through coordinat-
ed land use and transportation High speed rail (HSR) is a relatively Shinkansen — often referred to as the
planning around HSR stations. new and rapidly expanding trans- Bullet Train — in 1964. France estab-
portation mode, one with potentially lished HSR in 1983 with the opening
This brief summarizes research powerful benefits for local economic of the Paris-Lyon Train à Grande
conducted in Europe from development and urban form around Vitesse (high-speed train), or TGV.
February-May 2010 as a Com- the stations. European cities have long HSR expanded with the Eurostar line
parative Domestic Policy Fellow been shaped by rail transport, but HSR to the U.K. and in Germany, and began
for the German Marshall Fund
service is creating new dynamics, with to grow dramatically in the 1990s with
of the United States, drawing on
literature review, site visits, and
new opportunities and challenges. rapid national expansion in Spain,
interviews with transportation Cities are seeking to maximize the Italy, and elsewhere. In Asia, Korea
professionals, urban planners, benefits of HSR through coordinated and China built major HSR systems.
academics, and government of- transportation and land use planning, Worldwide, HSR grew from approxi-
ficials in Italy, France, Germany, strengthening integrated mobility mately 3,100 to 6,200 miles (5,000-
and Spain. options that promote smart growth 10,000 km) between 1997 and 2009.
and livable communities.
In 2009, an estimated 13,500 km of
High speed rail is defined by the Euro- HSR was under construction. Planning
pean Union as rail service traveling was underway for an additional 17,600
at 160 mph (250 km/h) or faster on km, with approximately half of the
new track, or 200 km/hr on existing planned growth in Europe. The United
tracks. Tracks are continuous welded States joined the HSR club in 2008,
rail, and trains are electrically-powered when a federal allocation of $8 billion
via overhead lines, for a very smooth provided support for nine HSR proj-
and quiet ride. HSR further reduces ects. In California, $2.35 billion in
travel times by eliminating roadway- federal funds and a $9.95 billion 2008
level crossings and by not sharing the state bond have given momentum to
right-of-way with freight or slower the planned HSR system, which would
passenger trains. run 800 miles between 28 stations, and
Matt Nichols is the principal transportation planner for the City of Berkeley, California. The views expressed here are
1744 R Street NW those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, or the
Washington, DC 20009 City of Berkeley.
T 1 202 683 2650
F 1 202 265 1662
Comparative Domestic Policy Program

Policy Brief
HSR station area developments Seeking the “HSR Effect”
In most cases, national policies and politics have played a
have revitalized vacant industrial large role in determining initial HSR routes and stations.
Existing rail connections with high ridership, such as the
Eurostar from the U.K. to Paris, have been obvious choices
areas, attracted commercial and for HSR conversion. France has sought to use HSR lines and
station sites to generate economic transformation in former
residential development, and industrial areas. In Spain, the HSR network was conceived
to shorten travel times from all major cities to Madrid to
leveraged major infrastructure promote national economic integration.

At the local level, a variety of engineering, economic, and

investments. political criteria have been used to determine the location
of the HSR stations. Cities with established central train
make travel possible from Los Angeles to San Francisco in stations most often simply expand to accommodate HSR
as little as 2 hours and 38 minutes. This has tremendous service. Other cities, such as Lyon, seized the opportunity
potential to transform California’s transit system and the to create a new, second central business district, placing the
cities where stations will be built. station in an underdeveloped area and creating a station
area plan and policies to attract and support growth. Still
High Speed Rail and Urban Land Use others are constructing their HSR urban tracks and stations
underground, and utilizing the new surface area for urban
From the start, policymakers recognized the enormous parks and to support growth. Many places are also investing
potential of HSR to shape urban form and stimulate heavily in light-rail and bus and bicycle connections to
economic development. Japanese HSR stations were the HSR stations, leveraging the major HSR infrastructure
intended to reduce low-density suburban development by investments to develop integrated mobility options with
concentrating new growth in mid-sized transit-oriented multiple benefits to the economy and the community. For
urban centers. France also coordinated HSR investment this brief, strategies for achieving the desired HSR effect
with land-use and economic planning to harness the urban have been placed into three categories, and one or more
economic growth potential of HSR service. European case studies are discussed in each category.

A great deal has been learned over the past 45 years about A. Integrated Station Area Planning
these impacts. In the best cases, HSR has had strong posi- Cities should create and implement a master plan that
tive benefits on the economic vitality of cities, increasing will guide future development around the station. Invest-
property values, creating jobs, and attracting new private ments for station area development, local transit, and other
investment. HSR station area developments have revitalized infrastructure can be financed with taxes or policy mecha-
vacant industrial areas, attracted commercial and residential nisms that capture a portion of the increase in value of land
development, and leveraged major infrastructure invest- around successful HSR stations.
ments. The cumulative benefits of high speed rail on local
and regional growth have been referred to as “The HSR B. Make Local Connections
Effect.” In fact, results have been mixed, and HSR does not Strong local transit access is essential for HSR success: even
automatically deliver positive benefits to all stations. Some though high-speed trains cannot travel as fast as airplanes,
stations remain disconnected and uninspiring; some cities they can deliver travelers into the center of their destina-
experience few ripple effects from HSR developments. This tion city, rather than to an airport far outside of town. To
brief will focus on several notable case studies where Euro- provide a fast and convenient door-to-door travel experi-
pean cities have succeeded in harnessing the impact of HSR ence, HSR stations should be centrally located, supported
to great advantage.

Comparative Domestic Policy Program

Policy Brief
by good local transit, and integrated into a dense, mixed-use Prior to the opening of the TGV, many had feared that it
urban setting. would hurt regional business by opening Lyon to greater
competition from Paris. Instead, local businesses benefitted
C. Creating Great Places from being able to conduct business more easily with Paris,
Policymakers and urban designers are increasingly recog- and Paris-based companies opened regional offices in Lyon.
nizing the “place-making” power of HSR stations. HSR
stations will be used by tens of thousands of people, so Research also found that HSR did not simply switch air
cities should take advantage of the opportunity to create trips to the train, but actually increased total trips. Nearly
memorable urban places, with new parks and open space as half of all travel between the two cities was estimated to
well as residential and commercial growth. be new, trips that had not occurred prior to HSR service.
Growth in travel was largely from increased business travel
In Europe, “undergrounding,” the use of tunneling and cut- from Paris-based firms traveling to subsidiary offices, and
and-cover construction to cover over rail track, rail yards, from Lyon-based businesses going to Paris. Tourism travel
and stations, has been a major element of HSR station to Lyon also grew.
development. The new land created on top of rail facilities
offers huge opportunities for creating new urban places. Within Lyon, many businesses chose to locate near the new
HSR stations can also provide iconic architecture, and other HSR rail station, Gare Part-Dieu. By 1990, the station area
urban design features to create more attractive places for was attracting 60 percent of new development projects in
business and tourism. the city, and the amount of office space in the area grew by
43 percent. Today, the Part-Dieu area hosts 20,000 jobs and
Case Studies some 5.3 million square feet of office space.

In 2010, I visited several cities in Europe to investigate their It is notable that Lyon chose not to locate the HSR station
experiences with high speed rail stations. Lyon, France, at its existing Lyon Perrache station in the constrained
provides an excellent example of the value of Integrated historic city center. The city center, located on a densely
Station Area Planning. Madrid, Spain, has made incredible populated island, suffered from extreme traffic congestion,
progress expanding local transit and multi-modal stations,
which connect its HSR stations to the larger city. Barcelona, Prior to the opening of the TGV,
Spain, has just begun a major “urban place-making” project,
which is creating a new HSR station area with housing,
retail, and public parks.
many had feared that it would hurt

Lyon, France
regional business by opening Lyon
Lyon, in southeastern France, is the second largest French to greater competition from Paris.
city with a population of approximately 1.2 million, and is
an important business center. In 1981, it was the first major
provincial city served by the French high speed rail, the
Instead, local businesses benefitted
TGV. The 5-6 hour trip from Paris to Lyon was reduced to
just 2 hours. HSR travel between Paris and Lyon attracted from being able to conduct business
many riders immediately, while airline service between the
two cities decreased. Before the TGV, 31 percent of trav- more easily with Paris, and Paris-
elers between Paris and Lyon went by airplane; this share
dropped to just 7 percent after TGV. based companies opened regional
offices in Lyon.
Comparative Domestic Policy Program

Policy Brief
and offered few opportunities for growth. In fact, Lyon Madrid, Spain
had already adopted a policy to shift development away Spain’s AVE (Alta Velocidad Española) HSR system grew
from the physically constrained downtown, and to create from a national vision of improving access to the capital,
a second urban center well before the development of the Madrid, which is located in the center of the country. The
TGV. The city developed a major new commercial area to first line, Madrid to Seville, opened in 1992. In 2005, the
the east of the center of town, which included the new Lyon Spanish government launched an ambitious rail expansion
Part-Dieu TGV station. Following the opening of TGV plan, which envisioned 90 percent of the population living
service, a major office center, shopping mall, library, hotel, within 30 miles (50 kilometers) of an HSR station by 2020.
and residential developments were built around the station. Since then, four new lines have opened, and another 1,380
Many area businesses subsequently moved their offices to miles will be completed by 2012.
the Part-Dieu area to benefit from easy access to the TGV.
Major traffic congestion and the establishment of HSR
Lyon was able to make good use of two French planning service spurred Madrid to expand its local transit system.
policy mechanisms that can be used by local government to Although the city has had a subway since 1919, Madrid
influence development. The ZAD (Zone d’Amenagement began expanding very rapidly in the mid-1990s, making
Différé, or Deferred Development Zone) was used to stop it one of the fastest growing transit systems in the world.
land speculation by giving the government the right to buy From 1995-1999, 35 miles of new track were laid and 38
land at a price set prior to the opening of the rail system. new stations opened. From 1999-2003, another 34 miles
This meant that increases in land value around rail stations of track and 36 more stations were built. This construc-
were accrued by the government. In addition, the ZAC tion included adding service to Madrid’s southern suburbs
(Zone d’Amanagement Concerte, or Concerted (focused) with a huge loop called MetroSur. Yet another 35 miles
Development Zone) was used to actively promote develop- of subway and 43 stations were added between 2003 and
ment. Under the ZAC, the local government was able to 2007. A light rail system, Metro Ligero, also opened in 2007.
purchase land surrounding the station for development. More recently, subway expansion has slowed, with just
They then created a master plan, installed basic infrastruc- six miles and seven new stations built since 2007, but the
ture, including public transportation, and sold the land to city continues to expand its bus system and is completing
developers. Developers were required to follow the master several suburban rail projects.
plan, and in exchange received tax and permit benefits.
As a result of this remarkable growth, the Madrid Metro
Since the opening of the TGV, Lyon has invested heavily system is now the sixth longest in the world, even though
in an excellent metro system, light rail trams, high-quality Madrid is just the 50th most populous metropolitan area.
trolleybuses, and a bike sharing service. Each of these serves
the Part-Dieu TGV station. According to local prop- HSR service also had a noted effect on urban areas near
erty agents, factors that induced growth near the station Madrid, mostly notably the town of Ciudad Real, which
included easy pedestrian access, customer convenience, was a very small, relatively inaccessible town before 1992.
heavy foot traffic, and the high-visibility of buildings and When the first AVE line opened, people were able to travel
firms from the trains themselves. from Ciudad Real to Madrid in less than an hour, and the
town grew about 15 percent over the past decade. Today,
Coming full circle, Lyon is now focusing its energy on the many residents commute every day to Madrid. HSR service
abandoned industrial area south of the Lyon Perrache between Cuidad Real and Madrid increased from 18 train
train station. The “Confluences” project is redeveloping cars per day in 1992 to 47 in 2005, and HSR today essen-
abandoned industrial lands and rail yards into housing tially operates as a rapid commuter service to the capital.
and commercial development to capitalize on the location, This access has created an unanticipated class of HSR
which is well served by HSR and local transit and is not as commuters referred to as “Avelinos.” However, Cuidad Real
congested as the now bustling Gare Part-Dieu area. has not simply become a distant bedroom community to
Madrid. It has also succeeded in transforming itself into a

Comparative Domestic Policy Program

Policy Brief
regional university and business center, and a significant projected to handle 100 million passengers per year. It will
number of people now commute in the reverse direction, also be a major transit hub, with a metro station and local
from Madrid to Ciudad Real. rail services integrated into the station. A massive tunnel is
being built under the city to connect HSR service between
Barcelona, Spain Sants and La Sagrera stations.

Currently, Spain’s largest HSR infrastructure and land use The La Sagrera project also represents a significant HSR
project is in the city of Barcelona. The capital of the autono- station area “urban place-making” opportunity, with 400
mous Catalonia region, Barcelona is Spain’s second largest acres of land 2.3 miles in length. The project is incorpo-
city, with approximately 1.6 million inhabitants, and is the rating several obsolete industrial areas and the decom-
center of the regional metropolitan area with approximately missioned Sant Andreu military facility. One hundred
5 million. and eighteen acres are planned as urban park open space,
achieved in large part by using “cut and cover” construction
In 2008, AVE started service from to make new urban land on top of 94 acres of track and rail
yards. The plan outlines 17.2 million square feet of built
Madrid to Barcelona and within space, including 12,887 new dwelling units (of which 43
percent are low-income subsidized housing) and 7.1 million
square feet of office, hotel, and other commercial space.
its first year attracted 1.5 million The overall Sagrera project is estimated to cost 2.24 billion
euros. Of this, about 50 percent is expected to come from
passengers who had previously the national, regional, and city budgets; and 50 percent
from the sale of land, offices, and hotels to private devel-
flown. opers.

Barcelona began construction of La Sagrera station in

In 2007, 90 percent of travelers between Barcelona and March 2010. Mayor Hereu of Barcelona welcomed the
Madrid flew, making it the busiest air route in Europe and project, pointing out that the station was the biggest public
one of the busiest in the world, with 4.6 million annual investment project in the whole of Spain. The mayor
passengers on 45,000 flights. In 2008, AVE started service highlighted the importance of the linkages resulting from
from Madrid to Barcelona and within its first year attracted HSR investment, saying, “La Sagrera is a basic piece in the
1.5 million passengers who had previously flown. Train mobility system of the Barcelona of the future. It is a major
travel between the cities increased from 600,000 passengers communication hub that links city neighborhoods, the
taking a 4 hour and 35 minute ride per year to 2.4 million metropolitan area, the capitals of Catalonia, and the city
passengers per year taking a 2 hour and 35 minute journey with the rest of Europe.”
on HSR.
Like Madrid and elsewhere, Barcelona has also built an
The HSR station in Barcelona, called Sants, was nearly extensive transit system of metro, commuter rail, and buses
doubled in size to manage the volume of AVE service. An to serve HSR passengers and to reduce urban traffic conges-
entire subterranean bus terminal and 2,300 space parking tion. In April 2010, a new 2.1 mile segment of underground
lot were constructed, and 840,000 square feet of commercial metro, including four new stations, went in to operation.
space, including a hotel, were built on the site. Operating on an automated driverless system, this line will
connect directly into La Sagrera station; completing one of
Barcelona also recently began construction of a second the final elements of what will be Europe’s longest metro
HSR station, called La Sagrera, in the northern Sant Andreu line.
district of the city. La Sagrera will become the main station
for HSR travel to France and Western Europe, and is

Comparative Domestic Policy Program

Policy Brief
The “cut and cover” method being used for place-making helps illuminate the factors that affect the level of benefits
at La Sagrera was also used with great success in Cordoba, delivered by HSR.
also on the original Madrid-Seville line. There, the HSR
covered over the existing track that ran through the center Both the successes and failures underline the importance
of the city, and the city constructed hotels, offices, a confer- of the station site selection and the station-area urban
ence center, and housing centered around a beautiful linear planning process in determining the success of the station.
urban park built directly atop the tracks. The AVE station Greengauge, a U.K. HSR planning organization, states
and adjacent bus terminal became an important regional that the “…selection of the location of the high-speed line
transportation hub, and Cordoba has been transformed station is critical. It must be developed in line with a master
from an industrial center of a rural province to a growing plan, one that fits high-speed rail into the strategy for the
regional services center, and increasingly popular tourist city as a whole. The station location has to fit with the city
attraction. strategy. The opportunity for regenerating rundown and
disused areas may include railway land and redundant
Conclusions industrial area.”

These case studies are inspiring and instructive examples In contrast to Lyon’s Part Dieu success, most of the first
of the HSR effect. Lyon’s integration of land use planning Paris-Lyon TGV route ran through unpopulated rural areas,
with its HSR station site selection resulted in successful and some stations were criticized for being too far from an
economic development and urban development. Madrid’s existing town to be convenient and too far from connecting
place at the hub of Spain’s national high speed rail network railway lines to be useful. Such stations became known as
is served at the local level by an incredible investment in “Beet Stations,” which is derived from the criticism of the
local and regional transit. Barcelona and Cordoba have Haute Picardie station, which remained surrounded by
literally created new land, providing both green, open space sugar beet fields even after TGV opened. The Le Creusot
and urban opportunities in these historic, built-out cities. station also failed to induce economic development. The
station location was selected to offer access to an economi-
There are, to be sure, many other critical variables and cally undeveloped area, with the hope that the station would
dynamics to consider regarding HSR station area develop- grow into a local activity center. This has not occurred, and
ment. While the cities I visited are important examples studies have found that the poor access limited the benefits
of success, there are also places that have largely failed to of the TGV. The station was placed far from downtown,
receive benefits from HSR service. Their experience also primarily accessible by car, with poor transit links to nearby

California’s public leaders and France carefully studied and learned from their initial expe-
riences with HSR and development. For the second TGV
development community should line, the national railway company formed a property devel-
opment subsidiary, which actively promoted development.
take advantage of the growth In Le Mans and Nantes, they successfully promoted infill
near stations even before the stations were constructed. In
Spain, the national agency Adif now manages all station
expected from HSR by creating construction, and is increasingly focused on adjacent devel-
opment and retail opportunities within stations.
plans and programs to encourage
Both the successful case study cities I visited as a Compara-
and guide development around tive Domestic Policy Fellow and the less successful places
each provide important lessons for High Speed Rail devel-
stations. opment in the United States.

Comparative Domestic Policy Program

Policy Brief
Based on European HSR experiences, California’s proposed
HSR system can be expected to reinforce population and About CDP
employment growth trends towards the largest cities in
the regions serves, Los Angeles, San Jose, and San Fran- At the turn of the 21st century, metropolitan regions are home to
cisco. California HSR will also serve the rising numbers of nearly three quarters of the population of the United States and
people in the sprawling Central Valley and will likely favor Europe and are projected to continue growing. The major economic,
agglomeration into the larger Central Valley cities where environmental and social transformations shaping these nations over
HSR stations are being planned. Despite billions in invest- the next century, as well as the severe economic crisis facing them
ment, developing more dense urban centers and improving today, will necessarily play out in urban contexts. Thus, the metropoli-
connections will pose major challenges to many cities, tan built environment, its impact on the natural environment, and the
particularly where essential transit extensions may be hard resources available to citizens will be crucial for successfully meeting
to achieve given economic constraints across the state. the complex challenges facing the transatlantic community. While
cities in the United States and Europe face similar policy challenges in
California’s public leaders and development community related post-industrial contexts, individual communities that attempt
should take advantage of the growth expected from HSR to implement creative strategies have limited opportunities to learn
by creating plans and programs to encourage and guide from one another’s experiences. Recognizing the necessity for com-
development around stations. Planning for HSR stations munities to collaborate in crafting approaches to local problems that
in California should focus on the creation of activity hubs, have global implications, GMF’s Comparative Domestic Policy (CDP)
using integrated transportation and land use planning, Program provides a framework for dialogue between individuals who
investments in local transit connections, and excellent make, influence, and implement urban and regional policy on both
urban design. sides of the Atlantic. At the core of the CDP program is the Transatlan-
tic Cities Network,a durable structure for ongoing exchange among a
Fortunately, top transportation and land use planners are select group of civic leaders representing 25 cities in the United States
working with California lawmakers on HSR and land use and Europe.
policy, and others are working directly with cities on station
area plans. The Urban Land Institute held a statewide About GMF
conference on transit oriented development at HSR stations The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) is a nonpar-
in September 2010. The San Francisco Planning and Urban tisan American public policy and grantmaking institution dedicated
Research Association (SPUR) just published Beyond the to promoting greater cooperation and understanding between North
Tracks: The Potential of High-Speed Rail to Reshape Cali- America and Europe. GMF does this by supporting individuals and
fornia’s Growth. In Southern California, cityLAB, an urban institutions working on transatlantic issues, by convening leaders to
design think tank affiliated with UCLA, received a $250,000 discuss the most pressing transatlantic themes, and by examining
grant to study the urban implications of high-speed rail. ways in which transatlantic cooperation can address a variety of global
At the same time, land use and transportation planning policy challenges. In addition, GMF supports a number of initiatives
throughout California is also changing rapidly, particularly to strengthen democracies. Founded in 1972 through a gift from
in response to the state’s landmark Climate Change Senate Germany on the 25th anniversary of the Marshall Plan as a permanent
Bill 375. memorial to Marshall Plan assistance, GMF maintains a strong pres-
ence on both sides of the Atlantic. In addition to its headquarters in
At the birth of high speed rail in the United States, it is Washington, DC, GMF has seven offices in Europe: Berlin, Bratislava,
critically important for American policymakers and urban- Paris, Brussels, Belgrade, Ankara, and Bucharest.
ists to learn from the valuable experience of our European
colleagues. Drawing lessons from both the best cities in
Europe and from HSR failures, U.S. leaders can craft poli-
cies to leverage major HSR investments and generate lasting
economic development, build world-class cities, and maxi-
mize the environmental benefits of high speed rail.