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If it works for potato salad, can crowdsourcing fund a new bus service along 128?

UPDATE: Kickstarter campaign now live.

The 128 Business Council thinks it has a way to get more city people out to jobs along Rte. 128: Build an online system to match people who've gone as far as they can on the T with a squadron of mostly private shuttle buses that already flit along the highway.

The only problem: To encourage ridership, the council wants to offer the service for free, but there's no federal or state money anymore for testing out new transit ideas. On Monday, the council launches a Kickstarter campaign to try to raise the $320,000 it says it will take to hire programmers to build the database and app that will let somebody getting off a Riverside or commuter-rail train quickly have a shuttle bus routed to her to take her to one of the office buildings along America's Technology Highway.

Monica Tibbits-Nutt, the council's executive director, said the council, which already runs its own shuttle service to and from Waltham and Needham, came up with the idea a couple of years ago.

In addition to some smaller public-transit systems that now service areas along 128 - for example, the Metrowest Regional Transit Authority has a bus from Framingham to Woodland on the Green Line - a number of companies operate their own shuttle buses. But often the buses run with empty seats. What if somebody could call up a system that would route one of these buses to them, ideally within a few minutes after they call? GPS on the buses, a back-end database to track them and a smartphone app could create an on-the-fly bus system.

The system could work because while service area is long - it stretches from Needham to Bedford - it's fairly narrow, because most of the offices are clustered right along the highway, Tibbits-Nutt said. "There are very few bizarre places people are going," she said.

The council actually got a small grant from the Federal Transit Administration to pursue the idea, but she said after talking to programmers, the council realized it needed more money to make it work. Council staffers batted around ideas for raising funds, she said. Somebody suggested crowdsourcing. It works for video games, and, yes, potato salad, so why not a public-transit system?

The Kickstarter campaign will run for 30 days, she said.

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Comments

How about we stop trying to subsidize a suburban vehicle centric lifestyle which doesn't work efficiently and makes poor use of land? Build offices where people can walk to work!

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How about a light rail line along/above Rte 128 similar to the Atlanta MARTA or DC Metro (Thinking Orange Line) that could connect to a downtown rail/subway line and get people to transit hubs along 128, where people could then walk (To the offices right along 128) or take a much shorter shuttle ride as opposed to schlepping everyone from Woodlawn or Riverside via bus. Then you could also have park & rides to move people up & down 128 instead of having everyone go via car.

I should add I'm all for moving more of the offices closer to the downtown core where they can be serviced by existing mass transit, but realizing that many people still WANT to live in/commute through the burbs, let's focus on moving cars off the highway and moving people onto transit.

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I'm a fan of light rail, but I'm not sure we should be looking to Atlanta or DC for anything that's supposed to reduce traffic congestion.

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LOL I'll give you that - I'm more describing the idea of dual-using the right of way for transit and cars, instead of just one or the other.

You could also borrow an idea from London and put bus lanes on the highway (Can't remember if they're all hours or just rush hour).

Either way you're moving cars off the road and shunting people onto transit. But the experience has to be better than simply sitting in your car in the same traffic.

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Light rail around 128 would A) be incredibly expensive, and B) serve a really low number of people per mile (it's not a dense enough area for transit to work).

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I've been thinking for a few years that the T would clean up running a line from Salem to Waltham to Norwood. And not just because it would help me personally getting from the North Shore to Waltham without driving.

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Seems to me like building a new rail line through a highly-congested area like that would be extremely expensive. The T doesn't turn a profit (let alone "clean up") on the commuter trains it currently runs on tracks that already exists. Sounds to me like you need to think about this a few more years.

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Light rail is interurban transport - the 128 corridor just isn't dense enough to support it. In this light rail would be a victim of its own success. If it is wildly successful it would reduce 128 ridership, but that reduction would relieve congestion and thereby induce more people to drive on less congested roads. A far better solution would be to have cheaper BRT-style buses run the length of 128 between offices and suburban park/ride stations along 128. We almost had something similar to this when the Boston Transportation Planning Review was active in the 70s after Sargent's highway moratorium - The Red/Orange Line extension through Dedham to 128 was studied, the Red Line northwest extension through Arlington to 128 in Lexington was both studied and funded by the Federal Government (but in spectacular NIMBY egotism, Arlington f*cked it all up because they didn't want "urban elements" in their town), and the Orange Line was slated for extension to 128 in Reading. The MBTA, at this time wanted to convert all commuter rail inside 128 to T rapid transit, but the costs of things like the Quincy expansion dissuaded them (also the massive fights with reticent host communities...like Arlington, who didn't want anything to disrupt their nice, Catholic, white, suburban idyll).

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but in spectacular NIMBY egotism, Arlington f*cked it all up because they didn't want "urban elements" in their town

That's one word for it.

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People like living in Cambridge/Somerville- Kendal has a huge amount of construction underway. Do you want more skyscrapers around there? It will never, ever, ever happen. Downtown Boston seems to be pretty built up - are you suggesting we put more office towers at say Forrest Hills or Coolidge Corner?

Walking/biking is great but unless you want to move to a Hong Kong style of tower life, many people will need to travel to work.

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There's plenty of space to build. The MBTA alone owns dozens of unused parcels that it's looking to sell off. The BRA has even more, although they seem to want to hold on to them for some unknown (and possibly idiotic) reason. It's a complete myth that we're out of space or need to build like Hong Kong.

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And just where would we put the multitude of offices and lab space currently along the 128 corridor?

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University ave ?

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but "offices where people can walk to work" doesn't really work for multi-income homes, and it's exponentially worse for those who own.

Finding an apartment that's equidistant and walkable to two jobs in two different industries is incredibly difficult, no matter how walkable and mass-transit accessible the region may be. Looking for jobs that are equidistant and walkable to a home you already own (and can't sell practically) is going to seriously constrict your employment opportunities.

Mitigating suburban sprawl is a good thing, but you'll never end the situation where a couple with a job in two different neighborhoods have to live in the middle, split the difference, and possibly get a car to avoid a crazy-long multi-transfer commute.

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Rents in various segments of the office:
Space Type – Rental Range/SF
Class A – Boston high rise $55 - $75
Class A – Boston mid rise $45 - $55
Class A – Boston low rise $40 - $45
Class B – Boston $25 - $40
Class A – East Cambridge $45 - $65
Class B – East Cambridge $38 - $47
Class A – Alewife $28 - $35

On average, office rents in the suburban office are $23.21 per square foot. Add in the higher vacancy rent, it makes sense for a company to have lower operating cost with the ablity to expand their office space if necessary.

http://www.colliers.com/~/media/Files/United%20States/MARKETS/Boston/Res...

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Not everyone wants to live in Cambridge (or pay exorbitant rent). Some people like to live in the near suburbs.

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Those same people also cry bloody murder when the State tries to help the MBTA with its capital program. I have no problem with the suburbs so long as suburban residents pay the proper costs and accept that suburbanization was the result of FHA policies that promoted single family homes and Federal funding of the interstate system - not some innate human desire to live in the not-really-but-sorta country.

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and accept that suburbanization was the result of FHA policies that promoted single family homes and Federal funding of the interstate system - not some innate human desire to live in the not-really-but-sorta country.

Some kool-aid your're drinking there.

People live there because they want to live there, and not because of some subversive government plot.

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People live there because they want to live there, and not because of some subversive government plot.

Thats why city housing is so cheep! Nobody wants to live there in the big bad city.

Isnt it so convenient that all the easy government backed mortgages and free government built highways are out near the strip malls and McMansions that ppl really want to live with?

What luck!

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...why 90+% of the population lives outside the city?
Because they want to

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We r in total agreement!

Rents in boston, cambridge, brookline are so very cheep bcuz nobody wants to live there.

99.8% of ppl in amerca dont even live in boston! thats like nobody lives in boston. cuz nobody wants to. fedaral govmint said so. not enuf strip malls.

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Kinda like walking to the shipyard, or the Stopie warehouse , why does it have to be an office ?

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Instead of complaining that we should build more office space right next to mass transit, which is something that would take years if not decades to accomplish, we should be looking for ways like this to make more efficient use of the public transit we already have in place. The MetroWest bus I take from Woodlawn to Natick is great but it is often not very full. Fill it up and use it more efficiently!

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For those of us who think it's an excellent idea.

Those companies are already out there. This is a great way to enable people who don't want to drive to get to work car-free.

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It goes live Monday. I'll add the link once it does.

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So, who is going to pay for these shuttles to go out of their normal way to pick extra people up? The companies that are already paying for shuttles to run around the area? Well, then have THEM foot equal portions of the bill to get it up and running.

I find it improbable that all these companies are okay with having their shuttles deviate from course and cost shuttle time and gas and their employees' time and money to go get other companys' passengers...but they can't find a few thousand each to pay for the implementation.

Whose head rolls the first time the system says a shuttle can go out of its way and still make its final stop for the employees...but is wrong and the employees miss their commuter rail train? The kickstarter participants? The 128 council? The private company lending its shuttles to the program?

Kickstarter: Where you can find enough people dumb enough to throw money at your idea without asking for a risk register

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There's Shuttles for Mount Ida College across the way from Leventhal Sidman Jewish Community Center where Shuttles are needed
https://www.google.com/search?q=jewish+community+center+Newton+MA

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Let's see: Kickstarter only works (for whatever it works) because there's typically thousands or hundreds of thousands of potential customers for the projects on there. Who are the potential customers for this service? A handful of companies along Rt 128? You'd be expecting them to kick in some serious dough for this software, each, and you don't get that by posting it up on some social media-based website. You get it by making a pitch to each one. In person.

Now, perhaps they can expand their potential customer base by trying to appeal to suburban office clusters in other cities. That would be a start. But still, it's hard for me to imagine executives at those companies going through sites like Kickstarter to fund this kind of thing.

And that's before we even get to the details of the proposal. $320,000 for the software alone? That's nothing in comparison to the real cost: running the buses. And that's the cost that the companies are already eating for their own employees. It's not clear what the benefit is to them to have their shuttles reroute dynamically for other companies' employees.

The corridor may be narrow (which is good for transit) but it's a highway and that means every bus stop requires an extensive navigation of loopy on- and off-ramps. This does not work well for transit at all: ideally you'd want to have as little side-tracking as possible for each stop. The line of the highway on the map may as well be a pile of spaghetti as far as sensible transit is concerned.

And this kind of thing where the buses respond to calls is not new. Not new at all. If these folks are applying for FTA grants and Kickstarter funds without being aware of the large body of work already available on what is called "Demand Response" transit, and its pitfalls, then they're totally hopeless.

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Kickstarter isn't about fundraising; it's about propaganda. The reason why most successful Kickstarter projects have well-polished, slick pitches is because they've already been mostly funded. Kickstarter serves only to boost awareness and enable pulling down unreasonable amounts of money from the project going viral.

Obviously $320,000 isn't going to cover the whole cost of the projects (Kickstarters never do). Obviously one would do one-on-one pitches with big donors (and, of course, have them contribute to the Kickstarter!). And, obviously, one would do a Kickstarter (I mean, we wouldn't even be talking about this project had they not done so).

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Is this app really going to divert private corporate shuttles? Or will it be for the shuttles the 128 Business Council runs from Alewife, Waltham Center, and Newton Highlands, which anyone can already pay (a lot) to ride?

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This is stupid. Uber has solved this problem already. MBTA solved it partially - they have GPS locations of their buses/trams in a central database.

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Uber is basically a cab company that charges cab prices, run by ruthless capitalists who won't want to give up their proprietary software to a bunch of do-gooders trying to reduce congestion on a major highway and get poor people to jobs in the suburbs, at least not without a ton of money, which said do-gooders don't have.

Yeah, the T has the problem partially solved, although the public version of their tracking system is run by a private company and the T is still based on a 19th-century model that assumes everybody wants to go to and from downtown Boston, not travel along an arc 12 miles from there.

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