Hub and Spoke: Core Transit Congestion and the Future of Transit and Development in Greater Boston

Stephanie Pollack
June 2012

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Far less publicized than the recent bad news about the financial crisis at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) has been some very good news: ridership is up. These additional riders, however, are filling the MBTA’s rush hour trains and straining the aging system’s capacity. This success brings with it even greater financial challenges: how will the MBTA serve its growing ridership?

Transit-oriented development, which concentrates homes and businesses near T stations and encourages transit use, has helped fuel this ridership growth. The T’s “hub and spoke” travel pattern concentrates ridership — and congestion — in the core of the system, so the success of TOD anywhere along the commuter rail and rapid transit lines depends on the capacity of the MBTA to accommodate additional riders in the core. The Boston District Council of the Urban Land Institute prepared this report in order to better understand core transit capacity and congestion in the MBTA system in anticipation of development trends and ridership growth.

Maintaining Diversity In America’s Transit-Rich Neighborhoods: Tools for Equitable Neighborhood Change

Stephanie Pollack, Barry Bluestone, Anna Gartsman
October 2010

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Extending public transportation to a metropolitan neighborhood for the first time can, in some cases, raise rents and attract wealthier residents who would drive rather than ride the train.

New public transit investments can sometimes lead to gentrification which prices out renters and low-income households — people considered core public-transportation users — working against the goal of drawing in transit-oriented neighbors.

The study urges planners and policymakers to consider the unintended consequences of neighborhood gentrification when expanding or improving public transit, given the risk that transit investment can cause undesirable neighborhood change.

Global Competitiveness in the Rail and Transit Industry

Michael Renner and Gary Gardner
September 2010

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The United States once had a thriving intercity rail and urban transit network. By the 1950s, however, the fed- eral government shifted its infrastructure spending decisively to highways and airports. Public transportation sys- tems atrophied, and America’s technological leadership in the manufacture of everything from subway cars to trams to high-speed trains passed to companies in Japan, France, Germany, and a few other European countries. By the 1970s and 1980s, the domestically owned passenger rail manufacturing industry had vanished. Today, the U.S. passenger rail industry remains underdeveloped, with significant gaps in the supply chain for passenger rail equipment.

In the face of challenges such as high gasoline prices, traffic congestion, and greenhouse gas emissions, public transportation offers a range of benefits over private automobile travel. Indeed, rising urban rail and bus rider- ship, as well as plans for high-speed rail corridors, suggest a rekindling of U.S. interest in these alternative forms of transport. Although still far from adequate, capital funds for these projects have been on the rise for several years, and the 2009 economic stimulus bill provided an important one-time boost. Along with this renewed interest in stronger transit systems, there is an increasing emphasis on capturing the jobs required in manufacturing these vehicles as well.

Reviving the U.S. Rail and Transit Industry: Investments and Job Creation

Joan Fitzgerald, Lisa Granquist, Ishwar Khatiwada, Joan McLaughlin, Michael Renner, Andrew Sum
September 2010

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With the federal transportation bill up for renewal, the United States has an opportunity to invest in public trans- portation and renew its manufacturing base. This report reveals that the country could gain more than 79,000 jobs in rail and bus manufacturing and related industries under an investment scenario sufficient to double tran- sit ridership in 20 years. If the United States were to invest at even higher levels—similar to those of China—this would yield more than a quarter million jobs.

The United States needs urgently to revive its rail and transit industry. The nation’s manufacturing sector accounts for over 10 percent of GDP, but manufacturing has seen job losses in the millions in recent years. And the U.S. trade deficit continues to rise. The country needs new manufacturing jobs now to address the trade deficit and to put unemployed Americans back in well-paying jobs.

Connecting with Our Economic Future: A Transportation Investment Strategy for the Life Sciences Cluster

Stephanie Pollack
October 2007

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Transportation infrastructure is a critical yet often overlooked component to economic development.

The geographic compactness of the Greater Boston life sciences cluster is currently one of our strongest competitive advantages, allowing productive connectivity between university and hospital researchers, physicians, and industry. Yet thousands of daily trips between labs, classrooms, hospitals and companies within this same geographic concentration also create congestion. The challenge then becomes how to provide transportation infrastructure that can accommodate the demand for connectivity in this growing industry.

A 2001 Jones Lang LaSalle survey shows that over 75% of knowledge-based technology companies consider access to public transportation to be a key factor in evaluating potential sites. Throughout the U.S., cities and regions are investing in infrastructure and transportation improvements — particularly in transit — to better serve the anchor institutions and geographic areas that are most vital to their life sciences clusters.

Targeted and strategic investment in transportation that supports our life sciences will not only enhance our regional economic competitiveness and create ‘a better city’, but also ultimately enhance our competitive position across industries to make a better Commonwealth.

In October 2007, A Better City released a report that examines the role of transportation infrastructure in creating stronger and better connections among the institutions and businesses in the life sciences sector. The report, titled Connecting with our Economic Future: A Transportation Investment Strategy for the Life Sciences Cluster, includes a comprehensive set of transportation investment recommendations designed to maintain our competitive edge in the life sciences. These recommendations include short- and longer term recommendations in the areas of capital initiatives, operational initiatives, and policy and planning.

On the Right Track: Meeting Greater Boston’s Transit and Land Use Challenges

Stephanie Pollack
October 2007

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This report and recommendations from the Urban Land Institute Boston District Council – with support from the Kitty and Michael Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy and The Boston Foundation – outlines the challenges and opportunities facing the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, and proposes a series of steps and an investment plan towards long-term regional sustainability.

“On the Right Track,” which was authored by Senior Research Associate, Stephanie Pollack, acknowledges that “the MBTA transit system is a regional asset and critical piece of economic development infrastructure that anchors regional efforts to increase housing production, create jobs, grow smart and embrace diversity and inclusion.”

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