SOMETHING SEEMS AMISS with the state’s ridership numbers for the proposed West Station in Allston.
The draft environmental impact report for the Allston Interchange forecasts 250 daily commuter riders and 2,900 bus riders when the station opens in 2040. But a host of people, most of whom want West Station built much sooner, are saying the commuter rail figures can’t be right, given the existing congestion in the area and Harvard University’s plans for 7 million square feet of development.
“I don’t see how that’s possible,” said Monica Tibbits-Nutt, a member of the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board. “There’s a traffic problem there now.”
One of the yardsticks people have been using as a point of comparison is the relatively new Boston Landing station, which is located less than a mile west from the proposed West Station. Boston Landing was built to accommodate development in the area, and the developer paid three-quarters of the cost, or $26 million.
A 2009 state study forecasted ridership at the station, then dubbed Everett Station, at 2,400 daily boardings in 2030. West Station was also included in the 2009 study, and ridership there was forecast at 1,600 daily boardings in 2030.
In 2011, New Balance Development Corp. projected that the Boston Landing station would have 500 riders a day when the project was fully built out at 1.75 million square feet.
Keith Craig, director of development for New Balance Development, said ridership seems to be exceeding expectations. In mid-October, with just half of the project built out, Craig said the company hired a consultant to do a week-long tally of riders and found between 700 and 900 every weekday. Well over half of the riders were living in the area and heading downtown, Craig said.
As development continues (another third of the project is expected to be finished by mid-2018), Craig said he hopes more people will commute to the area.
For us, we have always felt that having adjacent, reliable commuter rail service at Boston Landing is a prerequisite to building the full vision of Boston Landing, as a mixed-use, transit-oriented-development,” Craig said in an email. “In addition, our sponsor has been in this neighborhood for over 45 years and returning rail service to this neighborhood (which was once well-served with three commuter rail stops in the immediate vicinity) has always been an objective.”
James Aloisi, a proponent of building West Station at the beginning of development in the area, was astounded at the Boston Landing numbers. “This really underscores the value of regional rail to mobility in the urban core,” said the former secretary of transportation who currently serves on the board of TransitMatters.