Tackling Congestion: Lessons Learned from London and Stockholm

Other Cities Show Greater Boston Needs Both Carrots and Sticks

The below column, written by NAIOP CEO Tamara Small, first appeared in Banker and Tradesman on December 15, 2019.

Whether it’s in a board room, on a soccer field, or at the doctor’s office, the conversation invariably touches on traffic. Our daily commutes have become personal battles and the details are shared like war stories.  

As area residents know, and as multiple reports have confirmed, congestion has gotten worse in Greater Boston. Boston’s economy is booming – with nearly 100,000 new jobs created in the last year alone. There are 300,000 more vehicles on the road than five years ago, which is only projected to grow with the on-demand economy. The result? Bottlenecks on highways and local roads throughout the region. It’s clear that creative solutions, big and small, are needed to address congestion.  

Boston is not alone. Other cities across the nation are struggling to address traffic, air pollution, unsafe roads and emissions. Recognizing that the U.S. benefits by learning how other nations have tackled this issue the Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge, along with the Barr Foundation, brought a study group to London and Stockholm to see firsthand how these cities have used one specific tool: congestion pricing.  

How Other Cities Tackle Traffic 

The group, of which I was a part, included elected officials, environmental advocates, and business representatives from San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Washington, D.C., Honolulu, Boston and Philadelphia. We met with government officials, transit industry experts, and local community members who shared how London and Stockholm implemented congestion pricing and how it has evolved over the years.  

London launched congestion pricing in 2003 after Ken Livingstone’s mayoral campaign included a pledge to reduce the number of vehicles entering the city. In advance of the launch of the program, London focused on making public transit and other alternatives to car travel easier, cheaper, faster and more reliable. It expanded its already robust public transit options by adding 300 buses, froze fare increases, created discounts for residents in the district and upgraded trains and subways heading into the zone.  

Within the first year of the program, the number of cars in the congestion pricing zone dropped, eventually creeping back up somewhat as the population increased and road capacity was reduced by allocating space to cyclists, pedestrians, and buses. Today, the number of people riding buses is up 40 percent and twice as many people commute by bicycle than in the year 2000. Overall, traffic in London has decreased by 20 percent.  

In Stockholm, congestion pricing was implemented in 2007 after a six-month pilot program. Again, in preparation for the program, major investments in public transit were made, including 14 new bus lines, more high frequency trains, and 2,500 new park and ride spots. People experienced a decrease in traffic congestion starting on day one of the program, which has continued with a permanent reduction of 20 percent less traffic.  

Four Key Takeaways 

In some ways, comparing Boston to Stockholm or London is not an apples–to–apples comparison. These cities have very different public transit systems. However, as the Greater Boston area attempts to address congestion through a variety of mechanisms, the following are the key takeaways from the study trip:  

  1. Pilot programs work. In Stockholm, public support for congestion pricing was extremely low until a pilot program allowed people to experience it firsthand. It demonstrated the significant impact congestion pricing could have on traffic. A pilot program also provides critical data that could shape and fine–tune a more comprehensive program.
  2. People will not get out of their cars if alternative mobility options do not exist. Whether it’s new protected bike lanes, expanded bus routes or increased frequency of commuter rail and subways, investments and expansion must be made before a comprehensive congestion pricing program can succeed. Importantly, the revenue generated by congestion pricing in Stockholm and London was used to further expand these options. In addition, riders must be confident that the public transit system is reliable.
  3. A successful congestion pricing program must consider equity – whether it is the impact on certain populations or regions. Outreach to key community stakeholders along with data collection on exactly who would be impacted and in what ways are critical in the development of congestion pricing programs. 
  4. Congestion pricing is an effective tool. Cordon and area pricing have generally reduced driving by 15-20 percent and congestion by 30 percent or more. Importantly, in Stockholm, even after investments were made to expand public transit options, ridership did not increase until after congestion pricing was implemented. This is proof that a carrot and stick approach is needed to effectively reduce congestion.  

One thing is clear, there is no one silver bullet that will reduce congestion throughout Greater Boston. A wide range of investments and actions is needed. MassDOT recently issued recommendations on how they plan to tackle congestion including, among other things, addressing local and regional bottlenecks where feasible; reinventing bus transit at both the MBTA and at regional transit authorities; increasing MBTA ridership and capacity; and creating infrastructure to support shared travel modes.  

Changes of all sizes will make a difference and NAIOP looks forward to working with MassDOT and key stakeholders as discussions around addressing congestion continue.  

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court affirms decision in favor of BPDA

Today, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) affirmed the Superior Court’s decision in favor of the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA), formerly known as the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), in the case of Joseph P. Marchese vs. Boston Redevelopment Authority. The Court determined that the plaintiff did not have standing to challenge the BPDA’s actions in this case.

In April, NAIOP submitted an amicus brief in support of the BPDA, drafted by law firm WilmerHale. NAIOP chose to pursue this opportunity because the case addresses the “demonstrations clause” of the urban renewal statute, which is a critical economic development tool, often used for artistic, cultural and historical preservation in the City of Boston.

“We are pleased with today’s decision,” said Tamara Small, CEO of NAIOP Massachusetts. “This case was closely watched by the industry and the decision will allow the BPDA to continue to leverage important public-private partnerships to positively impact the City’s communities and public spaces.”

NAIOP files amicus briefs from time to time in cases that may have far reaching implications for real estate development in the Commonwealth.

Very special thanks to the team at WilmerHale including Michael Bongiorno, Julia Harvey, Arjun Jaikumar, Matthew Costello, and Keith Barnett. Additional thanks to the NAIOP Amicus Brief Advisory Committee  for their in-depth review and input on this issue.

NAIOP Files Amicus Brief in Marchese v. BRA: Brief Urges SJC to Uphold Superior Court’s Decision in Favor of BPDA

Law firm WilmerHale recently filed an amicus brief on behalf of NAIOP Massachusetts, The Commercial Real Estate Development Association, in the case of Joseph Marchese vs. BRA.  The amicus brief urged the Supreme Judicial Court to affirm the Superior Court’s decision in favor of the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA), formerly known as the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA).

NAIOP chose to pursue this opportunity because the case addresses the “demonstrations clause” of the urban renewal statute, a critical economic development tool, which is often used for artistic, cultural and historical preservation in the City of Boston.  NAIOP believes that if the BPDA and similar agencies cannot use their statutorily granted powers of eminent domain to carry out demonstration projects and plans, it could chill development throughout the Commonwealth.

“We are grateful to the incredible team at WilmerHale for their work,” said Tamara Small, CEO of NAIOP Massachusetts. “Joseph Marchese vs. BRA has wide reaching implications for our industry and all of Boston. The BPDA’s success in this matter will benefit Boston’s continued economic development, as well as positively impact the City’s communities and public spaces alike.”

The WilmerHale team involved in the matter was led by Partners Keith Barnett and Michael Bongiorno and included Senior Associate Arjun Jaikumar and Associates Matthew Costello and Julia Harvey.

Oral arguments began on Thursday, May 9.

My Top Ten Predictions for 2019

2019Here are my last predictions as CEO of NAIOP (but not my last predictions)!

  1. Wayfair will double their occupancy in Boston.
  2. Boston and Cambridge Office rental rates will rise to record levels for new space surpassing $120 psf.
  3. Apartment rental rates will be flat.
  4. WeWork will make a move to the suburbs.
  5. Electric bikes & scooters will be allowed in Boston (and then regretted).
  6. Bitcoin value will fall, other Cryptocurrencies will rise.
  7. Foreign investment in commercial real estate will drop.
  8. The stock market will hit an all time low and an all time high.
  9. The Fed will raise rates ¼% only once during the next year.
  10. Tiger Woods will win a major.

Below were my predictions for 2018. Not too bad!
1. Amazon will pass on Boston for a campus, but leave us with a great consolation prize. [Yes and 1mm sq. ft coming to the Seaport]
2. No Turnpike air rights project will start construction (ditto for 2019). [None, so far]
3. Fed. interest rates will be up 75 basis points by end of year. [50 basis points]
4. In Boston, more condos will be permitted than rental apartments (other than the neighborhoods). [Rental approved by BPDA: 33%/Condo: 67%]
5. An office or lab lease will hit $100 per square foot in Cambridge. [Boeing office, 314 Main St.: $106.63 Net effective rent]
6. Construction costs, on average, will be up 7%. [ to date, 6-7%]
7. More than one million SF of commercial space will commence on spec. [Office: Boston & Cambridge: 1,008,000 SF; Lab: Boston & Cambridge: 1,226,000 SF]
8. The 128 office market will show more transactions (both numbers and SF) than the downtown market. [Downtown wins]
9. Foreign buyers will begin to acquire major CRE property outside of Boston/Cambridge. [No]
10. And, yes, the Patriots will do it again. [Almost!]

NAIOP Mourns the Loss of Frank Wuest

NAIOP, its leadership, and its members all Wuest_Frankmourn the loss of Frank Wuest, a long time friend, past President, and avid supporter of NAIOP. We will miss his friendship, enthusiasm for life, and his upbeat attitude. To his family and friends, we give our deepest sympathies.

Frank Wuest died on Saturday, August 13, while participating in a fundraising swim in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island. An avid and skilled swimmer, Frank was 56 years old, a native of Greenwich, CT, graduate of the University of Connecticut and Harvard Business School, and was President of Marcus Partners, having established a successful career in real-estate investment and development.

Passionate about Boston, its people, and its landscape, Frank loved leading the development of vibrant, mixed-income, mixed-use communities. His work included well known developments such as University Park at MIT and Radian in the Leather District of Boston, which he completed while at Forest City Enterprises, where he was for many years president of the Boston office and Head of the Science + Technology Divisions. He served on both the executive committee and board of directors of A Better City as well as the international advisory board of Harvard Business School’s Real Estate Academic Initiative. Mr. Wuest was the Vice Chair of the Advisory Board of the Boston District Council of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) and was a past President and long time member of the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Chapter of NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association. His kindness, intelligence, generosity, and quick smile will be missed greatly.

Frank became a committed long-distance swimmer in 1998, and was a beloved member of the Cambridge Masters Swim Club at Harvard. He was the recipient of many awards including United States Masters Swimming (USMS) Long Distance All Star, USMS Individual All-American, and many USMS Top-10 swims. Earlier this summer, Frank completed a 10,000M swim for time and was the top male finisher in the annual Charles River Swim.

Frank inspired those around him to do their best. A champion of family and time together, he never let a summer go by without a family reunion. He is survived by his wife, Lyn Duncan; two children, Sam Wuest and Allie Wuest and their mother MJ Vigneau; two stepchildren, Micki Duncan and Elias Duncan; his parents Gail and Frank Wuest of Connecticut, two brothers, Kirk of California and Chris of Connecticut, and his sister Avery Horne of Connecticut.

Funeral Mass and Life Celebration

A funeral mass will be held Saturday, August 20 at 11:00 am at St. Paul Church, 29 Mt. Auburn St., Cambridge, MA. An event celebrating Frank’s life will be held immediately following the mass at the Harvard University Murr Center. Because there is no parking at St. Paul Church, parking will be provided at the Harvard Stadium lot next to the Murr Center at 65 North Harvard St, Boston, MA 02163. Shuttle buses will provide transportation between the Murr Center and St. Paul Church before and after the service.

Immediately following the funeral Mass a luncheon reception and celebration will be held at the Harvard University Murr Center Hall of History, adjacent to the parking noted above.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Frank C. Wuest Memorial Fund, established through Fidelity’s Charitable Gift Fund. Details can be found below.

——————————————————————————————————————————

Frank C. Wuest Memorial Fund
Make checks payable to:
The Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund
Memo:  The Frank C. Wuest Memorial Fund, Giving Acco
unt #1098999

Checks need to be able to be drawn on a US Bank and should be in US Dollars.
We cannot accept cash like instruments (bank checks, cashier checks, money orders, postal orders, etc.)

Regular Mail Address:                                       Overnight Delivery Address:
Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund                        Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund
Mail zone:  KC1D                                               Mail zone KC1D-FCS
P.O. Box 770001                                                100 Crosby Parkway
Cincinnati, OH 45277-0053                           Covington, KY 41015-9325

Questions?
If you have any questions about the donation process, please call Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund at 1-800-952-4438 or visit www.FidelityCharitable.org. Please reference “The Frank C. Wuest Memorial Fund”, Giving Account #1098999.

The Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund is a 501c-3 tax-exempt organization. Its federal Tax Identification Number is 110303001.

Event Recap: Leadership Lunch + Learn at 101 Seaport

The following blog post was written by Chloe Louise Bouscaren, Marketing and Business Development at CBT Architects.

“An Inventive Setting to Spark Inventive Thinking”

IMG_20151111_122627151On Wednesday, Nov 9th NAIOP hosted a Members-Only Leadership Luncheon at 101 Seaport Boulevard, the new home for PricewaterhouseCoopers, a multinational professional services network. PwC relocated 3000 employees from 125 High Street to Boston’s Seaport District. Shawn Hurley, the Executive Vice President and Regional Manager of SKANSKA USA Commercial Development hosted NAIOP on the building’s 7th floor, the only space that has yet to be leased. Shawn was joined by Charley Leatherbee, VP of Development; Levi Reilly, Director of Development; and Patrick Sousa, Manager of Development, who all played important roles in the success of this high-profile project.

IMG_20151111_121118778The newly constructed 17-story, 440,000 RSF, LEED Platinum state-of-the-art office building was developed by SKANKSA USA Commercial Development Team in Boston. Highlights included a chilled beam mechanical system, triple glazing curtain wall, 300 underground parking spaces, world class retail by WS Development, expansive views of the harbor and Seaport, conference and training centers, and virtually column free floorplates. 82% of the building is occupied by PwC, tenants Red Thread and Skanska will be joining them soon. NKGF’s Dave Martel and Bill Anderson are responsible for the leasing and deal negotiation.IMG_20151111_120951643_TOP

Located on what will be the new Seaport Square Green, 101 Seaport connects directly to Fan Pier Park, creating a continuous public space that reaches Boston Harbor and connects to the Harborwalk Grand civic lawn to support active recreation and public events.CBT2

SKANSKA is also currently working a neighboring 17-story office tower, 121 Seaport, as well as Watermark Seaport, a 300-unit residential complex both on neighboring parcels.CTjJnD2VAAAiuyx.jpg large

For those who have yet to hear Shawn’s presentations on SKANKSA’s developments in the Seaport and beyond, his confidence and presence is unparalleled. Shawn has an innate way of making an audience feel comfortable and that day, we all felt we were part of something big. SKANSKA is clearly making development history in Boston and Shawn and his group are leading that charge the titans of the real estate industry. Hats off gents.

Quick Project Stats
Project Cost: $290M
Project Duration: 26 months
PwC Employees: 3000 (20% more people in 12% less space)
Designer / Design Firm: Jonathan McGuiness, Jacobs Engineering Group

NAIOP’s on-going Leadership Lunch and Learn series is open only to Members and offers unparalleled access to top local real estate leaders. Attendees get an inside look at the area’s most active CRE companies and hear about their latest developments, recent activity, upcoming projects, and more. Not yet a NAIOP Member? Join today!

Ridesharing May be Saved by Technology

RideshareThe Clean Air Act was created to respond to the ever-increasing air pollution that has come from industrial expansion and a reliance on fossil fuels for energy and transportation. Automobiles are a major source of air pollution (e.g. hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide). It is estimated that road traffic accounts for about 40 percent of the pollution that contributes to ground-level ozone (the main ingredient in smog).

Single occupancy vehicles have long dominated the roadways, especially for commuters. In an effort to reduce pollution, states, like Massachusetts, have adopted Rideshare Programs. Ridesharing is the sharing of vehicles by passengers to reduce vehicle trips, traffic congestion and automobile emissions. Ridesharing (carpooling, vanpooling, public transport), as well as bicycle commuting and walking, are all goals of these programs.

Locally, the idea has been for Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) to work with large employers (with more than 1,000 employees) to promote commuting options. The program depends on corporate surveys of worker commuter patterns, providing a menu of commuting options, offering incentives, and documenting the resulting annual changes in patterns, hopefully to successfully meet a specific performance goal of reducing by 25 percent the number of times commuters drive alone to work.

Unfortunately, for various reasons, these programs have had limited success, but continue to burden the employer with annual compliance costs. Part of the problem has always been the difficulty of organizing car-pooling and the uncertainties due to the drivers’ and passengers’ daily schedules.

We are all getting accustomed to technology searching for logistical problems to solve. The ridesharing conundrum is one of those problems and “real-time ridesharing” are the solutions beginning to be provided by Transportation Network Companies, such as LyftUber and Sidecar. These companies, with their mobile apps, arrange one-time rides on an on-demand basis.

Both Lyft (Lyft Line) and Uber have now introduced a carpooling service in Boston. Passengers along a route get in the car at a price cheaper than the ride-for-hire alternative. The trip has to maintain its original route as it picks up other customers, who have to be ready immediately to get in the car when it arrives for them.

Although this service is currently limited to the Boston/Cambridge market, there is no question that an expansion of this service into the suburban market is inevitable.

It is also not very difficult to foresee an app that allows single occupancy drivers to easily connect with fellow commuters heading in the same direction, on a ride by ride basis. With no long-term commitments and many scheduling alternatives available, it seems like an easy fix. Yeah, we’ve got an app for that!