Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of City and Regional Planning/MS in Engineering (Transportation Planning Specialization)


City and Regional Planning


Cornelius Nuworsoo


This study investigated the potential for development of station catchment areas around the proposed California High-Speed Rail System. The study was prompted by a review of practices of Japanese railway company groups that engage not only in train operations, but also in business diversification and property development within the station areas of their lines. These actions allow the company groups to diversify their revenues streams, increase ridership on their lines, and operate as a whole with net profits. This is in contrast to transit agencies in the United States, which only focus on transporting passengers along their lines and do not engage in other commercial activities. This situation limits the potential for transit in the United States to play a larger role in urban transportation.

With the implementation of the California High-Speed Rail System, an opportunity exists to introduce the commercial transit model seen in Japan to the United States. Since the California High-Speed Rail System is a brand-new system with few entrenched interests to impede change, it has the potential to lead as an example of transit operating with net profits and providing additional benefits to the station areas it serves.

However, since planning for station areas to turn into commercially successful activity centers is still a new concept and practice in the United States, a methodology has to be developed to assess the potential for development of station areas. This study set out to answer the two questions: 1) To what extent are the locations of the California High-Speed Rail System’s planned stations currently attractive to development within their respective contexts? 2) Given the information gathered from the study, what policies should be taken to enhance the future development potential of the California High-Speed Rail System’s planned stations as activity centers within their respective station areas?

The potential for development was quantified by calculating accessibility indices for each station catchment area using the inputs of number of jobs, population size, and number of housing units within a gravity model.

The results of the analysis indicate that the station areas at the ends of the alignment in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area will benefit the most. The next biggest beneficiaries are the major population centers in the San Joaquin Valley, which are Fresno and Bakersfield. Other stations that are not likely enjoy the benefits of a high-speed rail connection as much as other stations are those that have very little development around them currently, such as Kings Tulare and Madera.

However, the potential exists for all stations to enjoy substantial development opportunities if the proper plans, policies, and business strategies are implemented early on and at the corridor level to make the station areas attractive for development. The study makes the following recommendations:

  • Promote the commercialization of train operations and station areas to capitalize on their long-term economic value;
  • Integrate the planning, construction, ownership, and management of train operations and station area development and services to reduce transaction costs;
  • Develop plans or business strategies for each station area to create roadmaps and timelines for their development;
  • And plan for land use activities at station areas on a corridor level to capitalize on specific synergies between station origin-destination pairs (e.g., land use activities that accommodate long-distance travelers between the San Francisco Bay Area and the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area, or those that accommodate commuter needs between up-and-coming station areas in the San Joaquin Valley with major job centers).