MassDOT and the MBTA need to expand Boston South Station to make room for more trains and more passengers. But why are additional trains coming into town, and where are their riders going?
There are a number of answers to these questions, but one stands out: jobs. There are more jobs than ever within easy distance of South Station.
Job growth is exploding in all directions around South Station. The Financial District has long been home to many key contributors to the Boston economy, but the employment power of the Financial District is now being replicated on the other side of the Fort Point Channel, bringing new jobs and new workers to the Innovation District and the Fort Point neighborhood.
Graphic courtesy of the Boston Redevelopment Authority.
Tech start-ups as well as venerable Boston companies are now located on all sides of South Station, and many of those firms rely on South Station to bring employees to work each day. And with thousands more jobs expected to come on-line in the area over the next decade, South Station stands not only as a gateway to opportunity but essential to the Commonwealth’s continued prosperity.
“To keep business thriving, our transportation network needs to be able to carry the current workforce and also be strong enough to support growth,” said Steve Woelfel, MassDOT Director of Strategic Planning. “Expanding South Station will provide the capacity, comfort, accessibility, and amenities that commuters and intercity passengers need and deserve.”
Increasing the number of tracks and platforms, as well as adding an off-site train layover area, will allow South Station to handle more trains more frequently and efficiently. These improvements are crucial: in the South Boston Waterfront area, up to 21 million square feet of new development is under construction or envisioned. These new buildings are expected to bring up to 15,000 new residents and 35,000 new employees to the neighborhood, across major employment sectors including biotechnology, hotel, retail, high-tech, and health care.
The Innovation District alone has attracted more than 200 new businesses and added 5,000 jobs to the area since January 2010. The neighborhood is particularly popular with “New Economy” companies – such as green technology and life sciences – which place a premium on easy access to public transit as a perk for their employees. Such companies typically have a high percentage of younger employees who want to be able to commute without a car. For these firms, easy access to South Station is a major attraction of the neighborhood.
Besides connecting people with jobs, the expansion of South Station will create jobs. Currently there are more than 1,000 workers associated with the transportation and retail operations at South Station, and an expanded station will likely require an expanded workforce.
Furthermore, early estimates predict more than 350 direct construction jobs over the life of the South Station Expansion project, and hundreds more workers associated with adjacent development once the station expansion is completed. These workers, in turn, create demand for additional goods and services and support additional jobs and earnings in the city and metropolitan region.