Research Category: 
Physical Planning, Transportation and Urban Design
Does High Speed Rail Change the Commuting Patterns in the Shanghai to Nanjing Corridor?

Research student: Jessie Wang

While the affordability of high speed rail (HSR) is an issue for most budget-conscious Chinese railway travellers, its fast speed, easy access and comfort make HSR an attractive transportation mode for inter-city travels within a certain distance window. This study focuses on the use of HSR by commuters, rather than, business people or tourists.  Could HSR fulfill the dream of daily commuting for those whose residence and place of work are in different cities? Would HSR result in a substantial rise of inter-city commuters? This study surveys the current HSR riders, identifies the commuters as a sub group of HSR riders and examines the drivers for their choice of HSR as the inter-city commutes.

The HSR connecting Shanghai and Nanjing (Hu-Ning Gaotie) is selected for the case study. Its 301 kilometres railway track runs through a highly populated and economically developed region in China. 21 stations have been built and opened for high speed trains and 10 more stations are planned to open in the near future. Travel time between certain pairs of cities along the Hu-Ning Gaotie is as short as 18 minutes (High Speed Rail Schedule 2010). On-board travel surveys will be conducted on randomly selected trains operating at morning and afternoon peak hours. Survey questionnaires cover riders’ OD information, trip purpose, trip fare payment, alternative transportation modes, frequency of using HSR, vehicle availability for the trip, and riders’ socioeconomics and demographics. Another survey will be conducted on the real estate development surrounding the HSR stations. The commuting patterns of the HSR riders will be analyzed together with the housing price differentials between Shanghai, Nanjing and their neighbouring cities. This study aims to understand to what extent the use of HSR as commuting mode is influenced by the housing affordability in metropolitan areas such as Shanghai and Nanjing. The findings of this study will help high speed rail planners understand the HSR ridership and its mixture, and help local municipal planners understand the intercity commuting behavior, the real estate market responses surrounding the HSR stations, and the potential long term impact of HSR on urban and regional structure in this megalopolis, connecting eight cities between Shanghai and Nanjing.