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The term sustainability is often defined as the capacity to endure. Sustainability speaks to decision making that considers the impacts of the actions taken now, on future generations. When developing major infrastructure for the California High-Speed Rail Program, program designers must consider factors that safeguard the capacity of future generations to enjoy quality life:

  • Environmental
  • Economic
  • Political
  • Cultural

The California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) is committed to building a high-speed rail system that minimizes impacts to both the natural and built environment, encourages compact land development around transit stations, and helps California manage its pressing issues with climate change, traffic and airport congestion, and energy dependency. The Authority has adopted policies and published several documents that confirm a commitment to sustainable development.

2021 Sustainability Report

2021 Sustainability Report cover showing a bridge structure over a river with a field in the foreground
The 2021 Sustainability Report provides information on the progress the Authority is making in fulfilling sustainability commitments. Specifically, this report:

  • Details the characteristics of the program that – based on feedback from the public, state legislators and the Authority’s internal experts – most clearly express sustainability.
  • Outlines the commitments, methodologies, progress and results of the program’s comprehensive approach to designing, constructing and operating high-speed rail in a sustainable manner.
  • Reflects the priorities and concerns of the program’s many stakeholders – including community leaders, elected officials, partner organizations, Authority employees and contractors, sustainability peers and organizations – and the people who will travel on the system.
  • Discusses the results of the materiality assessment process performed in 2018. The Authority and the high-speed rail program have passed various project milestones since the process was completed in 2014/2015, making it prudent to validate and refresh material topics covered in our sustainability program and reporting.
  • Highlights our updated Sustainability Policy, which was adopted by the Board of Directors in April 2019. The updates to the policy included refinements to priorities, objectives and commitments, and a clear delineation by program phase.
  • Outlines the progress marked by several achievements.
  • 2021 Sustainability Report


Previous Reports

Urban Design Guidelines

The California High-Speed Rail Authority’s Urban Design Guidelines are a comprehensive planning guide that provides domestic and international examples of station area design, urban design and transit-oriented development. This guide includes simple diagrams that analyze and explain successful public places and how each promotes livability and transit use.  Urban design implemented around high-speed rail stations can encourage destination stations and enhance the value for the surrounding community.

The Urban Design Guidelines report is intended to be used by cities and communities throughout the state’s 800-mile system as they work with their stakeholders and residents to create a vision for their high-speed rail station areas.

Sustainable Design Concepts

High-speed rail will provide the Central Valley with improved access to the rest of the state, putting the Central Valley’s residents only one to two hours away from California’s major employment and population centers. This change in the Central Valley’s geography of access will in turn impact the course of future development within the region. At the regional scale, the increased accessibility afforded by high-speed rail can serve to concentrate development in and around communities that have stations. Such demand can shift the impetus of new growth away from the Central Valley’s agricultural land and reorient it towards established urban centers.

Vision California

“Vision California” is an unprecedented effort to explore the critical role of land use and transportation investments in meeting the environmental and fiscal challenges facing California over the coming decades.  Calthorpe Associates is producing tools that can evaluate alternative physical visions for how California can accommodate anticipated growth. The project will model the consequences of varying land use and transportation scenarios, and quantify the benefits of a more sustainable, transit-oriented future for California–one that is anchored by a statewide high-speed rail network. To access these documents, please contact the Authority’s Public Records Act office.

Urban Forestry Program

Urban Forestry LogoHonoring its commitment to zero-net direct greenhouse gas emissions in construction, the California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) is pleased to present the details of the first group of urban forestry projects. CAL FIRE, in partnership with the Authority, has awarded $2.5 million in tree planting grants to date to offset greenhouse gas emissions associated with construction of the first portion of the high-speed rail system. The more than 6,000 trees to be planted will reduce greenhouse gases and provide numerous environmental, social, and economic benefits to disadvantaged communities in the vicinity of the rail line between San Jose to Anaheim.

These grants:

  • Fund tree planting projects to reduce greenhouse gas levels
  • Arrest the decline of urban forests and improve their structure and function
  • Increase climate change resilience
  • Improve the quality of the environment in urban areas
  • Optimize co-benefits to urban residents


Two organizations have been awarded and woman planting tree in dirt in front of a wall

  • Tree Fresno – $1 million grant
    • 2,400 trees will be planted in schools, parks, and in residential areas in disadvantaged communities in the greater Fresno region
    • Focus will be put on the largest trees possible, as these provide the greatest greenhouse gas benefits
    • Species will be chosen wisely for drought tolerance and make use of water-wise irrigation
    • Educational opportunities, including curricular activities, will be provided associated with the tree plantings
    • Continued care for the trees for the length of the grant will be ensured and ongoing maintenance will be provided
    • Plantings began in spring of 2018
  • California Urban Forests Council – $1.5 million grant
    • 4,000 trees will be planted in disadvantaged communities along the rail corridor, half in public areas and half in residential areas
    • Council will build a network of urban forestry support to create greener, cleaner communities by working with local partners in disadvantaged neighborhoods
    • Informational and outreach opportunities will be provided to engage residents and train volunteers in tree care
    • Continued care for the trees for the length of the grant will be ensured and ongoing maintenance will be provided
    • Plantings began in spring of 2019


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