Guest post by ULI Boston
ULI Boston issued its report, Hub and Spoke: Core Transit Congestion and the Future of Transit and Development in Greater Boston, on June 14, 2012, to an overflow audience of 175 public officials and business leaders. Through its Infrastructure Council, ULI Boston began to focus in 2010 on a comprehensive effort to educate key public and private constituencies as to the economic importance of the regional transit system. They decided to examine the extent to which current and projected capacity constraints in Boston’s core transit infrastructure could hinder that economic growth, and make certain key policy and business leaders were aware of the results.
Upon winning a ULI Urban Innovation Grant in 2011, ULI Boston embarked on a collaboration with the Dukakis Center at Northeastern University, with additional funding from A Better City and MASCO, in an effort to collect and analyze data on current and projected transit ridership. After factoring in current and proposed TOD data around all 260+ transit stops in Metro Boston, provided by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), ULI Boston issued Hub and Spoke, which made front page news in The Boston Globe, and was covered by the major television, radio and print news outlets.
- We live in a transit-oriented state. Fully one quarter of all jobs in Massachusetts and one out of six homes are within a half mile of an MBTA subway, trolley, or commuter rail station.
- The MBTA is a product that people want. Ridership is going up, increasing by nearly 3% per year since 2006. The T now serves more than 1.3 million trips per day.
- Residents are increasingly choosing to live near transit.
- Employers are creating new jobs near transit. There are nearly 4.8 million square feet of commercial space under construction near transit, including new offices for major employers such as Google, Liberty Mutual, and Vertex. More intensive use of existing commercial space is also driving up the number of jobs in transit station areas.
- There is substantial capacity for much more development near transit. Approximately 75,000 new housing units and office space for 130,000 new jobs could be created in transit station areas over the next two decades.
- Ridership on the MBTA may grow by 100,000 – 367,000 additional riders in the next ten years.
- Transit congestion is already a problem on the MBTA. Segments of the Green, Orange, Red, and Silver Lines all currently exceed their capacity during portions of the day. Only the Blue Line—after a multi-year modernization project—is currently operating without congestion.
- Worsening transit congestion may stifle future economic growth. There are specific “Hot Spots” where transit congestion may grow unacceptably worse in the next decade, including downtown Boston, Longwood Medical Area, Back Bay, the Seaport and Kendall Square in Cambridge. Because of the “hub and spoke” nature of the MBTA transit system, transit congestion in these core locations can affect future transit-oriented development in suburbs and Gateway Cities along the outer “spokes” of the system as well.
- The Commonwealth needs to plan for and invest in the MBTA’s core capacity to prevent worsening congestion and enable economic growth throughout eastern Massachusetts. If capacity is not increased, employers and residents who see transit as an important amenity may decide to locate in other states with growing transit