International Lessons for Promoting Transit Connections to High-Speed Rail Systems

Posted by Content Coordinator on Wednesday, May 11th, 2016


Executive Summary

The California High-Speed Rail (HSR) project has matured to the point that initial design of segments in the Central Valley was started in 2014, beginning the long process of completing the California HSR program. One significant concern that many communities involved in, or affected by, the California HSR project have is how to connect the new HSR passenger services to local urban transport, such as bus and light rail. The route and stations for the first segment of the HSR system are well known, but many questions remain about how HSR will be integrated into the existing (and future) California transportation system.

Other countries have decades of experience in the integration of their HSR with other transport options. European and Asian HSR offers a wealth of information on how to optimize access to and integration with other transportation options, particularly local public transit systems.

As the California High Speed Rail project moves forward, the quality and quantity of its connections will become an urgent issue. Transportation planners at the state, regional, and local levels are incorporating this new service in their vision of future transportation systems. The purpose of this study is to provide information – based on international experiences – to local and State planners and decision-makers and help introduce HSR services to California and meet local needs and aspirations.

What lessons or standards can be inferred from the international HSR experience? Do the systems of other countries provide a useful means of assessing the integration of HSR and other transportation modes in California? This study is based on looking for patterns in the international experience that might be applied to California. Among the primary objectives of this study were the following:

  • Examining the connections offered at existing HSR stations in Europe and Asia.
  • Determining if there was any basis for developing connection standards based on population size or other criteria for the set of cities studied.
  • Examining options for a sample of California cities that will have high speed rail stations.
  • Comparing these cities to comparably-sized international cities, both qualitatively and quantitatively.
  • Using interviews with local officials and other California-based data sources to determine how well their existing local transportation systems can be integrated with new HSR stations, or improved upon based on the existence of these stations.
  • Drawing conclusions for the California High Speed Rail program that will facilitate its success and maintain focus on the quality and availability of connections to local systems.

Major Findings

Observations from patterns observed among international benchmark stations:

  • Most HSR stations have similar designs, with most differences being caused by a need to accommodate the local geography. Their connectivity infrastructures are influenced by the existing transit network systems’ level of development at the time of construction, as well as the local population’s transportation habits. In general, the more transit-oriented the city, the higher the connectivity of the station.
  • At stations with access to HSR trains, the level of connectivity to other transit modes depends on how long the station and its high speed rail connections have been available. HSR stations that have recently been introduced, or newly integrated into the HSR system, still do not have the same level of connectivity as stations that have been delivering high speed rail for longer periods of time.
  • Although this is not always explicit in the examined data, HSR stations have bicycle facilities, and generally do an excellent job of marking pedestrian paths into the station and between the station and the connecting modes.
  • Although other forms of transportation are quite commonly available at international stations, the most widely available public transport modes are taxis and buses. Both of these services reach all the rail stations that were examined.
  • Station activity, defined as the number of passengers using the station per hour, is directly related to the local population size. Higher station activity requires higher transit capacity. However, the number of streetcar, tram, light rail, and subway lines connected to a station, as well as their service frequencies, does not appear to be directly affected by population size.

Observations from matched comparisons between California and international HSR stations:

The Los Angeles area and its transportation agencies are fully engaged in a program to reinvent public transport for the region’s citizens. Their objectives are enhanced connectivity, an integrated transit system, and improvements in the system’s ability to move passengers. The agencies seem well-coordinated and have good prospects for additional funding. Tianjin, which saw a recent explosion in the use of HSR, but is still developing the transit infrastructure that will connect the HSR station to the rest of the city, may provide a useful blueprint.

Comparatively, officials in Gilroy and Fresno are not very far along the path in planning for integrated HSR connections, although they are very mindful of the opportunities. They are operating in a less-than-optimal environment to develop them, due to funding uncertainties and disagreements about priorities for HSR development. Both cities have engaged consultants to help maximize the impact of HSR on ridership and economic development in their respective urban cores. The comparison cities of Fulda and Málaga are much further along in all respects, so the California cities can benchmark their progress against that in Fulda and Málaga as they begin to implement their own plans.

Figure 1. Number of Urban Bus Lines vs. Population ÷ Number of HSR Stations

Download full version (PDF): International Lessons for Promoting Transit Connections to High-Speed Rail Systems

About the Mineta Transportation Institute
The Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) conducts research, education, and information and technology transfer, focusing on multimodal surface transportation policy and management issues. It was established by Congress in 1991 as part of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) and was reauthorized under TEA-21 and again under SAFETEA-LU. The Institute is funded by Congress through the US Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Research and Innovative Technology Administration, by the California Legislature through the Department of Transportation (Caltrans), and by other public and private grants and donations, including grants from the US Department of Homeland Security.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.

Follow InfraUSA on Twitter Facebook YouTube Flickr


Show us your infra! Show us your infra!

Video, stills and tales. Share images of the Infra in your community that demands attention. Post your ideas about national Infra issues. Go ahead. Show Us Your Infra!  Upload and instantly share your message.

Polls Polls

Is the administration moving fast enough on Infra issues? Are Americans prepared to pay more taxes for repairs? Should job creation be the guiding determination? Vote now!


What do the experts think? This is where the nation's public policy organizations, trade associations and think tanks weigh in with analysis on Infra issues. Tell them what you think.  Ask questions.  Share a different view.


The Infra Blog offers cutting edge perspective on a broad spectrum of Infra topics. Frequent updates and provocative posts highlight hot button topics -- essential ingredients of a national Infra dialogue.