A team of UCLA researchers has examined the potential impact of the controversial California High-Speed Rail (CHSR) project on the state’s housing affordability crisis through the lens of Japan’s 55-year-old Shinkansen high-speed rail system.

Their findings are no great surprise—Japan’s rail network allowed lower-wage workers to access exurban areas where housing development is less expensive. While areas close to stations experienced price increases, in general prefectures linked by rail were more affordable than they would have been without rail. “What happens is you have effectively increased the size of the city,” [says UCLA management professor Jerry Nickelsburg.] “The size of the city expands, and you get urbanization moving out.”

According to Nickelsburg, Japan can serve as a model for the impact of high-speed rail on California due to certain parallels – both have about the same land mass and lie in active earthquake zones. However, Japan has three times California’s population and far denser concentrations of people. The CHSR project has also run into cost overruns, delays, and wavering support from registered voters.

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