In Japan, speedier commutes let workers live farther from jobs, taking some pressure off high-priced housing markets
Policymakers increasingly see the West Coast housing shortage — and commuter congestion worsened by workers’ moves to distant, lower-priced housing — as a single problem of poorly thought-out urban development.
The solution is more housing and improved transit systems, not just one or the other. That point of view might help California’s high-speed rail project between San Francisco and Los Angeles, estimated to cost more than $70 billion, to win over a few of its many critics, a working paper suggests.
UCLA Anderson’s Jerry Nickelsburg, University of New Mexico’s Saurabh Ahluwalia and the International Monetary Fund’s Yang Yang employ a half-century of data on the extensive Japanese high-speed rail (HSR) system, known as Shinkansen, to measure economic impact. While there are many differences between Japan’s and California’s economies and cultures, the results suggest HSR might help slow the rise in California housing costs.
Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose rank among the nation’s most expensive places to live.
The study showed prefectures that received a new HSR line did not experience an improvement in overall GDP, even with a burst in spending when the rail line was being built. But it does indicate a significant slowdown in prefecture-wide land price increases the year after a new rail line was introduced.
The findings suggest that by making it easier for workers to move out of the city, the high-speed rail line shifted the demand for property from the higher-cost cities to the lower-cost suburbs and rural areas. By helping cities to ”decentralize,“ the HSR reduced the growth in land prices across the region.