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HIA Topics

Community Quality of Life

Quality of life consists of many dimensions that measure the overall positive and negative aspects of people’s lives including, economic well-being, housing and neighborhood quality, social and mental well-being.

Household economic well-being is strongly and consistently linked to health status. By providing employment on the System and stimulating economic activity, the HSR System has the potential improve the economic well-being of households, thereby improving their health, as well. While the health value of economic benefits is greater for lower income households, questions remain on how to ensure that these benefits reach lower income households.
The HSR System and ancillary projects are likely to have far-reaching effects on housing markets and access to affordable housing by linking employment centers, particularly in the Bay Area, with less expensive housing in the Central Valley, and by fueling construction of new housing. Many of these effects may not be realized for decades. These effects will depend to a large extent on economic cycles, housing markets and migration—all factors beyond the control of the HSR Authority.
The HSR System may have both direct effects and indirect effects on land-use. Land-use is linked to health through effects on housing, transportation, household economic well-being and exposure to noise, air pollution and other environmental determinants of health. Among the direct effects of the HSR on land-use are property acquisition, agricultural land to urban use, and the addition of greenspace along the HSR alignment. Location-efficient housing and commercial development in station areas with good transit connections to local communities can expand housing options, decrease vehicle-miles and increase physical activity. Migration and economic development spurred by the project may also bring development regionally, particularly in the Central Valley, which may in turn affect housing costs.
Emerging research has demonstrated that exposure to greenspace, such as parks and landscaping around walkways and residences, has a multitude of physical and mental health benefits. In addition to the direct benefits of greenspace on health, it can also buffer noise and urban heat island effects. Landscaping around HSR facilities and in station area developments can lead to a net increase in greenspace, but more importantly it can increase the amount of daily exposure to greenspace.
People with stronger, richer and more positive social ties generally live longer with greater sense of well-being. Community cohesion is shaped by a wide range of factors in the physical and social environment that could be affected by the HSR System and ancillary projects, such as changes in where people live, work and go to school, travel time, and places and opportunities for social interaction. The HSR System presents a unique opportunity, if done right, to improve conditions conducive to community cohesion. Constructive engagement of community stakeholders is crucial to building community cohesion.
Safety and crime conditions, both real and perceived, in and around HSR facilities will affect community well-being, as well as ridership. Incorporating design principles, such as lighting and visibility, into the design of stations and station-adjacent areas can improve sense of safety for station visitors and residents. Effective policing and community programs play a critical role in complementing design elements in order to promote safety and sense of security.

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