“This is a real-estate deal but not a real-estate deal,”
May 12, 2015 3:45 PM   Subscribe

New Balance Bought Its Own Commuter Rail Station [The Atlantic]
If you were in a generous mood, you might call the public transportation system here troubled. Otherwise, you’d call it an ancient, broke, disorganized, mess. The MBTA owes $9 billion in debt. Trains are old. They often can’t run in the snow, which is problematic in a city that got 109 inches last winter. Still, the city of Boston is growing as Millennials and Boomers alike look for walkable, dense places to live. Boston needs more transit, but the state can’t help much: Governor Charlie Baker has proposed cutting $26 million from the state Department of Transportation and $14 million of MBTA funding. So when athletic company New Balance decided to expand its headquarters and build retail, a hotel, a track, and skating rink in one Boston neighborhood not served by public transit, it didn’t wait for the city to agree to build new train stations or add bus routes, which could have taken years. Instead, it decided to build a commuter rail station itself.
posted by Fizz (75 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
What could possibly go wrong?
posted by Chuffy at 3:49 PM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is classic, "Innovative," thinking at work. How are they going to deal with public safety, zoning, legal, government, etc. regulations...It reminds me a lot of shadow IT...is this what libertarianism is all about?
posted by Chuffy at 3:58 PM on May 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


Early infrastructure investments in the U.S. were made by private companies, including some New York City subway lines. But as the federal government started to put more and more money into roads and highways, private companies took a step back.

A bit disingenuous that. Private companies continually went bankrupt trying to build mass transit from the horse drawn streetcars to electric streetcars to subways to passenger rail. Still do, as the article notes. For some reason investors are generally not keen on the massive upfront expense required to build out mass transit and the slow amortization of cost and eventual return on investment.
posted by davros42 at 3:58 PM on May 12, 2015 [11 favorites]


Value capture at work: Build the station, own the property around the station, the property will be worth a hell of a lot more because of the station. If we had a reasonable transportation funding mechanism in this country some of that money would go back into the cost of running the line, but because we encourage externalities, this is going to be an amazing investment for New Balance shareholders.
posted by straw at 4:04 PM on May 12, 2015 [10 favorites]


Oh, *that's* what that building is. Whenever I drive by the new HQ building, I wonder why someone is building what looks like a landlocked cruise ship in Allston.

Also, to hell with Charlie Baker and all the other governors who've been continuously cutting the MBTA to the point where they have to figure out *which* of the several life-threating problems with the T they get to fix this year.
posted by rmd1023 at 4:06 PM on May 12, 2015 [14 favorites]


My company is moving into this office complex next Spring, taking up five floors. My colleagues who live out west are thrilled with what New Balance has done here - it will enable them to take public transit instead of sitting on the parking lot that is the Mass Pike in the morning and evenings. It's better for the employees, for the environment, and for everyone else who will have a little less traffic to deal with.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 4:09 PM on May 12, 2015 [14 favorites]


This isn't exactly a new idea. Metra had/has a flag stop at Abbott Labs. (I think it's gone now, but I haven't looked at a timetable in a long time.)
posted by hoyland at 4:10 PM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is classic, "Innovative," thinking at work. How are they going to deal with public safety, zoning, legal, government, etc. regulations...

All of those things will be covered when the company goes through its comprehensive and exhaustive development approvals process, same as in any development. Nothing is getting built without regulatory approval. This is not the first time that this has happened. Developers often build public infrastrure as part of large scale developments, especially when their developments give rise to the need for that public infrastructure. In many cases, building the public infrastructure, or paying for the infrastructure to be built, is a condition of development approval. Many developers opt to build because it is cheaper to do so, because they can build at cost.

What is different about this scenario is that the government is apparently not interested in building the transport infrastructure, or requiring that it be built. It's a story about a regulatory and public policy failure, not a company gone rogue.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:12 PM on May 12, 2015 [44 favorites]


Value capture at work: Build the station, own the property around the station, the property will be worth a hell of a lot more because of the station.

This is, in fact, the business model of the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) in Hong Kong. Each station is built with a shopping centre and high density apartements, all owned by the MTR. It's insanely lucrative, but the property development component also funds the upkeep and expansion of the rail network, and subsidised fares. The public gets good transport, the government gets infrastructure wihtout having to pay for it (and a bunch of tax revenue), and the MTR makes money. Everyone wins.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:18 PM on May 12, 2015 [40 favorites]


It's a story about a regulatory and public policy failure, not a company gone rogue.

The real "public policy" failure is the political one, where conservative zealots believe you can cut budgets infinitely with no downside. It's a failure of entrenched dogma, rather than actual regulation or policy.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:20 PM on May 12, 2015 [7 favorites]


Well, public policy is the outcome of politics, so we're both right in a sense.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:24 PM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's a story about a regulatory and public policy failure, not a company gone rogue.

Maybe it's a story about a government owned and operated by major corporations, with people in leadership who do not value government, and actually want to drown it in the bathtub. Then, when the regulatory and public policy fails (predictably), businesses can step in and build stuff like this on their own. Or not.
posted by Chuffy at 4:29 PM on May 12, 2015 [7 favorites]


God creates dinosaurs.
God destroys dinosaurs.
God creates man.
Man destroys God.
Man creates city.
City destroys man.
City rewards tax-free corporate identity.
Man creates dinosaurs building corporation.
We're horrible at everything.
posted by Fizz at 4:33 PM on May 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


I think it's appalling the way that the state has slashed MBTA funding. That said, if a private corporation is willing to fund mass transit improvements, that seems preferable to them setting up a situation that requires yet more cars on the road.
posted by Chrysostom at 4:43 PM on May 12, 2015 [11 favorites]


I've always wondered why cities don't subsidize the upkeep of mass transit stations by selling the naming rights, like professional sports stadiums do. Petco, for example, is paying the San Diego Padres $60 million over 22 years to make sure that every mention of their home field is also a plug for Petco. But how many times a day do people say the name of a prominent mass transit station like 12th and Imperial? Sell the rights to station names and use the money to improve mass transit for working folks.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 4:50 PM on May 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


I pretty much agree with everything Chrysostom says above, but one thing about this article that aggravated me was how many times it said government "can't" fund public transit infrastructure. That's crap, of course it could. For a variety of reasons, some more compelling than others, state and federal governments have chosen not to. To frame that as anything other than a political choice is disingenuous.
posted by Wretch729 at 4:54 PM on May 12, 2015 [33 favorites]


I live in Chicago and I can tell you that South Siders would think it a pretty great deal if say, the Red Line came all the way down to 130th Street, even if it did end up being called the Verizon Wireless Station, or what have you.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 4:55 PM on May 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


Planet Starbucks.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 5:03 PM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


I do miss the old Enron Station stop.
posted by uosuaq at 5:10 PM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Conservative zealots in Massachusetts? Maybe the better answer is liberals who can do the math of declining returns -- there is hardly a business in Mass. which doesn't at least every so often consider which, if not all, of its operations it can move to better-weather, lower-tax states. Like everything else the government spends money on, transit ultimately has to be seen as worthwhile by the people paying the taxes, or else there will be no more taxes to collect.
posted by MattD at 5:23 PM on May 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


Apple did pay for a massive upgrade for the River North CTA stop in Chicago to encourage people to come to their Apple store. As I remember it went pretty well and people were happy about it.
posted by bleep at 5:27 PM on May 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


While I too lament the lack of actual funding for public transit, even in a well-funded system I think this sort of station should be paid for by the property developers. In other cities that I know of property developers pay for all kinds of crazy stuff like parks or public parking as part of their approval deals. A transit station sure beats acres of surface parking.
posted by GuyZero at 5:39 PM on May 12, 2015 [7 favorites]


Yeah, it's not so different from requiring developers to upgrade roads, onramps, other infrastructure when they drop their big mall, apartment, amusement park wherever.
posted by notyou at 5:44 PM on May 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


Maybe the better answer is liberals who can do the math of declining returns -- there is hardly a business in Mass. which doesn't at least every so often consider which, if not all, of its operations it can move to better-weather, lower-tax states.

You mean the lower-tax states that can't even claim the relative luxury of a broken public transit system? The ones that don't give a crap about infrastructure or the environment, and criminally deny their citizens basic public services such as healthcare and education so as to appear more business friendly?

Those states only exist so that businesses in Massachusetts can call our bluff and negotiate sweet tax breaks for much better gains than any actual relocation would accomplish.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 5:50 PM on May 12, 2015 [10 favorites]


I've always wondered why cities don't subsidize the upkeep of mass transit stations by selling the naming rights, like professional sports stadiums do.

The MBTA has tried doing that in the past. For a while, State was known as State/Citizen's Bank and more recently they put out an RFP for selling off the naming rights to several downtown stations but hardly anyone was interested and no one met the minimum bids required for swapping all the existing station signage.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 5:58 PM on May 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


This isn't exactly a new idea. Metra had/has a flag stop at Abbott Labs.

And the MBTA already has a regularly scheduled stop that's only for workers at the GE plant north of the city.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 6:01 PM on May 12, 2015


On the surface this seems like good corporate citizenship to me and what MattD says just above makes sense to me, but I live in Minnesota with relatively similar issues so I'm probably missing something.
posted by padraigin at 6:04 PM on May 12, 2015


I thought the whole "taxachusetts" thing was actually shown to be a right-wing fiction, that taxes in the state are really no more than most other states when all types of taxation are taken into account?
posted by maxwelton at 6:08 PM on May 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


Value capture at work: Build the station, own the property around the station, the property will be worth a hell of a lot more because of the station.

Except for, say, Dorchester and Malden. Somehow they might get overlooked by corporate giants, do you think?

The term 'redlining' might gain a new meaning.
posted by Dashy at 6:12 PM on May 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


The 21st Century Company Town.
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:14 PM on May 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's also worth noting that in the past twenty years the MBTA has spent enormous sums expanding the longer distance and more heavily subsidized Commuter Rail network into suburbs and exurbs that are on balance more conservative than the communities served by subway and bus. Coincidentally, much of this expansion happened while there were Republican governors in office.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 6:15 PM on May 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


So are they putting a branch on the Green Line "B" train? Is that the plan?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:16 PM on May 12, 2015


No, it looks like just the commuter rail. Work in Alston, live in beautiful downtown Worcester.
posted by sammyo at 6:19 PM on May 12, 2015


Also, the new Assembly Square station on the Orange Line was partially funded by the developer of the former Assembly Square mall property.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 6:20 PM on May 12, 2015


I've always liked, in a nostalgic way, riding the trains here on the East Coast, and seeing how old factories have the vestiges of railroad spurs going off to their loading docks near the tracks.

Was it the Vanderbilts who had their own subway station in New York, with their own chandelier-bedecked subway cars?
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:22 PM on May 12, 2015




Conservative zealots in Massachusetts?


It's more that we are a city-state, and so the state electeds are still operating like a municipality. Unlike other states, we don't get to stay in denial as long.
posted by ocschwar at 6:56 PM on May 12, 2015


About Dorchester: The state is still finishing up a $200-million upgrade of the Fairmount Line - which runs through Dorchester, Mattapan and Hyde Park. Part of the upgrade included a reduction in fares from commuter-rail levels to subway levels. Next up is the purchase of single-car DMUs, which would allow for subway-level scheduling - so it's not like the T is doing absolutely nothing in the inner city.

Mentioned in a glancing way in the Atlantic article is West Station, which would be a brand-new station that would mainly serve the Olympic venues (ayup) proposed for the now vacant Beacon Yards freight yard in Allston and the campus/neighborhood Harvard wants to build there after that. The state's committed to a third of the price, Harvard will pick up another third. BU, whose property is next to the old yard, was originally going to pick up the rest, but apparently balked because the state refused to agree to ban traffic to the station along the streets that BU sits on.
posted by adamg at 6:59 PM on May 12, 2015


I thought the whole "taxachusetts" thing was actually shown to be a right-wing fiction, that taxes in the state are really no more than most other states when all types of taxation are taken into account?

That is correct. Massachusetts has both a high per-capita income and taxes commensurate with that. It makes the unadjusted taxes appear high, but the tax burden-- the percentage of one's income that is devoted to taxes, is shockingly average.

That is, of course, for individuals. Massachusetts has the audacity to actually make businesses pay some taxes to operate in the Commonwealth. A very vocal minority of people here find it rather sad that companies looking to exploit the public often elect to incorporate in other states, but I'm mystified by that attitude.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:05 PM on May 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


I haven't done a full analysis of the facts here but what's the drama here exactly? My chief complaint is with "externalisation": private, profit-driven organisations using publicly-funded infrastructure (roads etc.) to make money (this is a huge problem in Australia with the amount of trucks on our roads). But New Balance is building a train station for its employees - who presumably need it - and is going to fund maintenance of it for a decade - since the state isn't sufficiently funding rail infrastructure - and this is bad for some reason? I don't know what to think any more.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:08 PM on May 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


pretty sure that between harvard and new balance allston is going to be an entirely different beast someday soon, and that makes me very, very sad. this is the only part of the city i could ever call home.
posted by JimBennett at 7:20 PM on May 12, 2015


Honestly, given how terrible public transit is in the Bay Area, it's surprising there haven't been any startups trying to disrupt trains.
posted by Apocryphon at 7:28 PM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Maybe someone who knows more could explain the differences better, but to me it looks like tech companies have employees who need to get to work, companies build our their own private bus network vs. shoe company needs employees to get to work, company helps foot the bill to grow the local public transit system, enriching both the company and the community.
posted by Brian Puccio at 7:32 PM on May 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


How are they going to deal with public safety, zoning, legal, government, etc. regulations...

Privately-owned property is not exempt from regulation. Private restaurants manage to meet public safety standards, zoning laws, etc without turning into public soup kitchens. As for the details of how the rail station will be run, I trust New Balance to efficiently solve those problems more than the city government. To continue the analogy, a restaurant would not function better if its customers elected the staff and gave their opinions on how the kitchen should be arranged. Instead the restaurant presents its customers with an end result and they are free to pay for the service or not. Of course if you tried to run a whole country that way people could not easily choose which one to live in the way they choose which restaurant to eat at, but for an individual train station there shouldn't be any problems with private funding.
posted by Rangi at 7:33 PM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


From the article:
New Balance wasn’t always on the hook for the transit station. Indeed, when it floated the idea of building a hotel, track and field arena, and hockey rink by its current offices, residents complained about the lack of transit in the area.

“We need a commuter rail station. The MBTA does not want to talk about this. At all,” wrote Tom Crowley, a blogger for Allston Brighton Newsflash, in a March 2012 post about the New Balance plans. “The state is going to get a lot of revenue from this development. Some of it needs be used to build a better transit system, here.”
First, hot damn is New Balance going to make a killing off that real estate, so building and maintaining a transit stop won't hurt their bottom line, and may actually boost their profits in the long run. Second, the sales and property taxes are going to the general funds, where everyone will fight over them, and because infrastructure isn't sexy (previously), no one will champion transit or roads, so good luck getting all that money to address the long-term development impacts to the region.

Really, this should happen more often if governments were progressive and put major developers on the hook for their impacts to infrastructure. Instead, new developments include construction of utility lines and roads, and maintenance or serious expansion is up to the local and state governments, who are struggling to address all the demands for public services while still courting businesses and trying to grow their economies. And then there are re-elections to think about, so no one's going to stick it to the developers to truly make a livable community, because those "livable" aspects are generally considered public services, not a feature to be included and funded by private developers.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:38 PM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Honestly, given how terrible public transit is in the Bay Area, it's surprising there haven't been any startups trying to disrupt trains.

In the Bay Area they disrupt it by running private buses on public lines and not contributing to infrastructure that benefits the greater good, so this seems like somewhat of a win in comparison. I still feel like there must be a catch but I can't imagine a catch worse than "everyone drives to work everyday in their own car".
posted by padraigin at 7:46 PM on May 12, 2015 [7 favorites]


Total tax burden comparisons are not hard to find, although the methodology varies a bit from one to another.

Massachusetts is typically considered to be somewhere around the middle of the pack, with the difference between average state and local taxes paid in MA about $3,000 higher than the lowest-tax state (Alaska) and $1680 lower than the highest-tax state (Illinois). So the difference is not particularly large compared to average Federal taxes ($17k). For most people, I doubt it would be worth moving over.

Corporate taxes and sweetheart tax deals for employers, though... that's where I suspect the real variation is.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:02 PM on May 12, 2015


Oh goodie, there's not enough stops on this line already between West Natick and South Station!

*eye roll*
posted by rollbiz at 8:05 PM on May 12, 2015


Which station entrance should I take if I underpronate?
posted by srboisvert at 8:17 PM on May 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


Was it the Vanderbilts who had their own subway station in New York, with their own chandelier-bedecked subway cars?
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:22 PM on May 12


You're probably thinking of the semi-secret rail platform 'Track 61' under the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, just north of Grand Central.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 8:27 PM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


They often can’t run in the snow, which is problematic in a city that got 109 inches last winter.

OK, for the record, that 109 inches is the most Boston has ever had. The T has a lot of problems, there's no need to exaggerate them and pretend this past winter was normal.
posted by maryr at 9:07 PM on May 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


And, yeah, totally agree that New Balance will make a killing off of building this station. There's a direct inverse correlation in distance to T stations and rent - all NB needs to do is install some condos with an underground garage. Hot damn.
posted by maryr at 9:10 PM on May 12, 2015


Still, the city of Boston is growing as Millennials and Boomers alike look for walkable, dense places to live.

Meanwhile, GenXers sit on the park bench, huddled against the cold, quietly rocking and moaning to themselves.
posted by Miko at 9:11 PM on May 12, 2015 [10 favorites]


As they always have.
posted by maryr at 9:12 PM on May 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


Each station is built with a shopping centre and high density apartements, all owned by the MTR.

Metro Tokyo area, same. Also, the short-distance, neighborhood-level city bus system is integrated such that the busses start, end, or both at train stations. Now that I can read a bit, I realized a couple of trips ago they aren't city buses that I'm taking to the Keikyu station. They're Keikyu buses.

(and they're clean, cheap, and come every like, six minutes)
posted by ctmf at 9:13 PM on May 12, 2015


Meanwhile, this an entire article about public/private partnerships in Massachusetts with a focus on the commuter rail and Keolis isn't even mentioned?
posted by maryr at 9:17 PM on May 12, 2015


I'm not sure if that's true in the actual city of Tokyo. It is in the outlying area of it where I spend most of my time.
posted by ctmf at 9:18 PM on May 12, 2015


And then all New Balance has to do is build, own and operate large apartment blocks with integral shopping centers, pools, playgrounds and schools for its employees...

*busily talking notes for my next Shadowrun Gabe...*
posted by happyroach at 1:23 AM on May 13, 2015


...and to encourage local small business, the company can pay employees directly in New Balance BuxTM, accepted exclusively at those shopping centers, pools, playgrounds, and schools they built!
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 1:58 AM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


WRT stations named after businesses, I was at the Lechmere Green Line MBTA stop last year and laughed when I thought about how long it's been since that store disappeared -- and how few people remember the source of the name.
posted by wenestvedt at 3:08 AM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is a good thread to read while I've been waiting for this same commuter rail train for the past 25 minutes. I look forward to having an extra stop so I get to work even later.
posted by bondcliff at 5:12 AM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I live in Mass, have done so for nearly 20 years. My taxes appear to pay for an absolute bare minimum of services that I can use: roads full of potholes for months on end, declining public transit srrvice, poor snow removal that culminated in a car accident in March that I'm getting surcharged for. My property taxes pay for health insurance and pensions enjoyed by other people. Meanwhile, I get a high deductible health plan because I work in the private sector.

Businesses moving out of Mass because the cost is too high? This worker might be next.

BTW, good on New Balance. Wish I could use the station and I hope other companies follow suit. Otherwise I think the MBTA will continue to be cut.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 5:24 AM on May 13, 2015


I thought the whole "taxachusetts" thing was actually shown to be a right-wing fiction, that taxes in the state are really no more than most other states when all types of taxation are taken into account?

I grew up in Connecticut, less than a mile south of the Massachusetts border. My father, a Fox News casualty before the term existed, used to proclaim proudly that he never would have settled in the People's Republic of Massachusetts, despite having been born and raised there. Frequently he would relate this story while we drove the mile north to the gas station perched directly over the border, where gas was 20 cents cheaper per gallon.
posted by Mayor West at 5:28 AM on May 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


While all of you are lamenting the lack of funding for public transport or lambasting Gov. Baker for cutting DOT funds, the MBTA has left hundreds millions of unspent money on the table, gives secretaries $40,000 SUVs to drive home with, in fact the T and the DOT have a pool of cars and SUVs that administrators can just take whenever they want. The DOT re-routed, for their own use, a fleet of SUVs that were built for and designated for the State Police. The T has squandered millions more by deferring needed repairs, again leaving money already allotted on the table.

Also another factoid of waste in MA: The DOT pays on average 7 times more per mile for administration and 12 times more per mile than the US average for road maintenance. So what Baker is doing is chopping away at the waste, fraud, and incompetence (He sacked the entire DOT Board), and is still getting beaten back by cronyism in the legislature who won't pass budget cuts for fear of losing Union support.
posted by Gungho at 7:55 AM on May 13, 2015


I was at the Lechmere Green Line MBTA stop last year and laughed when I thought about how long it's been since that store disappeared -- and how few people remember the source of the name.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:08 AM on May 13 [



The Lechmere name in Cambridge existed loooooong before the store did. The store was named for the Lechmere neighborhood. It was originally named for the Colonial-era landowner Richard Lechmere, a Loyalist who returned to England at the beginning of the American Revolution. His lands were later seized by the new American government.
posted by Gungho at 7:57 AM on May 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Gungho, while that figure for administration is unreasonable at a first look, Mass should have a higher than average cost for road maintenance. Unlike the folks in Oklahoma who use weather as an excuse for the almost uniformly terrible roads, Massachusetts does actually have weather that significantly increases the wear on roads relative to most other states. Not only do they have enough winter weather that they are beating them up with plows and salt all winter, but being that far north and coastal causes much more frequent freeze-thaw cycles than most other states.

As I said, Oklahomans use that excuse extensively even though it's a bunch of BS in their case. There, it is a complete lack of willingness to allocate sufficient funds to maintain the network of roads they have.
posted by wierdo at 8:15 AM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yet with all that money spent MA is listed as 46th in the country in road conditions. Other cold weather states: 1. Wyoming 2. Nebraska 3. South Dakota 6. North Dakota 16. Maine. Even 23. New Hampshire , which has no income or sales tax has roads deemed to be in better condition than MA. Massachusetts ranked 3rd or 2nd in total cost per mile, administrative cost per mile, and bridge costs per mile. That means Massachusetts is spending more money than most other states and has little to show for it.
posted by Gungho at 8:27 AM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


The term 'redlining' might gain a new meaning.

The Red Line already goes right through Dorchester.
posted by theorique at 8:49 AM on May 13, 2015


> In the Bay Area they disrupt it by running private buses on public lines and not contributing to infrastructure that benefits the greater good, so this seems like somewhat of a win in comparison.

In defense of the tech companies that run shuttles — which is a phrase I never thought I'd say — their campuses are in areas where voters have soundly opposed meaningful transit expansion for several generations. If Google, Facebook, and Apple got together and announced their plans to fund a branch of BART that went through Silicon Valley — or even to make Caltrain less mediocre — I doubt it would get past the planning stages.
posted by savetheclocktower at 9:06 AM on May 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


The tech campuses are in areas where voters have not only opposed meaningful transit expansions, but also meaningful housing expansions. Everyone wants to host the commercial real-estate, but more residents destroy the character of a town and are incompatible with the vision we have for this region.
posted by straw at 9:33 AM on May 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I grew up in Connecticut, less than a mile south of the Massachusetts border. My father, a Fox News casualty before the term existed, used to proclaim proudly that he never would have settled in the People's Republic of Massachusetts, despite having been born and raised there.

There was a long time when Mass had significantly higher income taxes than Connecticut did—Connecticut not having one at all until sometime in the 80s, if memory serves. Connecticut has always had notoriously high gasoline taxes though, basically higher than any adjoining state. The net tax burden is very similar, but you can system-game pretty heavily if you live on a state border.

I think a lot of people haven't run the numbers recently, and realized that CT now has significantly higher taxes than MA. Almost like that little experiment didn't work out very well...

Also grew up in CT but bought gas (and wine) in MA. For all Massachusetts' complaining about New Hampshire's conveniently-located liquor stores, they have a hell of a gas station and liquor store setup right on the MA/CT border at Sturbridge...
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:54 AM on May 13, 2015


Late to this, but as an addendum I'm pretty sure that some of the money for repairs to Brooklyn's Atlantic Avenue subway station came from the company behind the new Barclay's Center.

They don't own it as far as I know, but one perk they got were the renaming rights -- the station is now officially "Atlantic Avenue - -Barclay's Center".
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 1:59 PM on May 13, 2015


Reading a bit more on the subject, it seems to me that getting this built will be a slam dunk. It's scheduled to be completed in about 18 months, in fact. Essentially, they are adding a stop along a pre-existing route, in an industrial section where stops were previously removed. They are putting up the money, and the value of their real estate will go up, of course.

To me, this seems like good business sense,as it hedges against the vagaries of market trends and fads for New Balance. In retrospect, I would imagine that Levi's would be better off if they had invested in San Francisco real estate, especially in the formerly industrial SOMA district of San Francisco, before old industrial areas became overpriced art/work lofts.
posted by markkraft at 2:59 PM on May 13, 2015


This isn't a very new concept; Chicago has long had an L station at Merchandise Mart, a huge building (once the biggest building in the world, in fact) that was owned for over half a century by the Kennedys.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:27 PM on May 13, 2015


Hey, I grew up in a Philadelphia SE suburb, one of the US's first. Land was given to the commuter rail companies to sell or lease, to raise the capital for creating the commuter rail infrastructure. Those Civil War and later 19th century suburbs are collectively The Main Line to this day.

I now live in a western state where land, up to 50 miles wide in some areas, was given to the post-Civil War railroads so *they* could raise both capital and demand for services to expand westwards. Never mind there were all ready aboriginal people living in those lands.

This NB company stop/development is more of the same. At least NB is paying for the stop and property instead of demanding the local governments give it to them for free, as an incentive to do keep doing business in the area.
posted by Dreidl at 8:31 PM on May 13, 2015


Gungho: the MBTA has left hundreds millions of unspent money on the table

But is that money they can just reallocate willy nilly, or is it money that's already allocated to specific capital projects that just can't proceed because they aren't yet fully funded or lack some other go-ahead.

All of your other complains are the public agency equivalent of welfare queens.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 6:24 PM on May 14, 2015


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