More than 300 architects, planners, and developers had their minds blown and their ambitions frustrated at last week’s California High-Speed Rail TOD Marketplace in Anaheim, produced by the Urban Land Insitute’s California District Councils. The mind-blowing part came via France and China. Andreas Heym, director of development for consultants AREP, narrated a tour of French High Speed Rail stations, which connect urban-planning loose ends in many cities, including small villages such as Meuse. China has High Speed Rail on government-controlled steroids. Jeff Heller, partner with Heller Manus Architects, and a member of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s HSR China delegation, noted that Chinese HSR now employs six million people and China recently imported $10 billion of HSR technology to Brazil.
The frustrating part: Every other industrialized nation but the U.S. uses high-speed rail (HSR) to propel growth, cut carbon, and avoid airport headaches. “We are being left in the dust in the United States,” said Heller. Still, California is working with $10 billion in jump-start bonds. If the state can remove its many development and funding speed bumps, the placemaking power of HSR stations will be “unlike anything in the American rail transportation experience,” said Gideon Berger, AICP, Fellowship Director, Rose Center for Public Leadership in Land Use Urban Land Institute.
Jack Skelley serves on Executive Committee for ULI Los Angeles.