Frontier Group


Expanding the Transit System in Boston

Boston's MBTA recently opened its first new transit stop in 27 years, responding to local demand for more transportation options and spurring billions of dollars of transit-oriented, mixed-use development in the vicinity.

Tom Van Heeke

Policy Analyst

My commute got a little longer this month with the opening of a new stop on the MBTA’s Orange Line, the first new addition to the Boston area transit network in 27 years. To call it “magnificent,” as one rider gushed in a local radio segment, might be going a little far, but there is no doubting the development’s significance.

When city officials first sketched out new development in what had become a rundown corner of town, the vision was one of big box stores and parking lots. In 1999, Swedish furniture giant Ikea even bought land in preparation for a new superstore that would dominate the site. But local opposition stalled the automobile-oriented vision, while a reinvigorated planning process reimagined the area as a smart-growth neighborhood complete with a new transit stop. Throughout the past decade residents continued advocating for denser, mixed-use development that would maximize the area’s potential and deliver the livability residents wanted in a neighborhood.

Thus the arrival of Assembly, as the stop is known, and its surrounding development is a testament to Americans’ increasing desire for walkable, transit-oriented communities and new transportation options. As our May 2013 report A New Direction documented, more and more of us, and especially members of the Millennial generation, are hoping to leave the car keys at home and live in mixed-use neighborhoods with multi-modal transportation alternatives, including safe and pleasant sidewalks, bike infrastructure and convenient transit. According to the Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation, “the new Assembly station is a direct response to that demand.”  

With cranes and construction crews busy at work on adjacent condominiums, office space and boutiques and outlet stores, Assembly is also a reminder of the economic benefits transit can bring to a community. Every $1 invested in public transportation generates approximately $4 in economic returns, in part by catalyzing development of walkable, accessible (and fashionable) neighborhoods in proximity to transit stops; creating jobs both with the transit system and in new businesses in its vicinity; and freeing local consumers to spend less on transportation – gasoline, car repairs and so on – and more on other things. (For a detailed treatment of transit’s many benefits, see the Victoria Transport Policy Institute’s Evaluating Public Transit Benefits and Costs (PDF).) Altogether, Assembly is part of a $1.5 billion neighborhood development that ranks among the largest construction projects currently underway on the East Coast.

Survey data show that ninety percent of Boston area residents recognize these benefits and think it important to continue investing in public transportation to ensure communities grow and thrive. Here’s hoping the new Green Line extension doesn’t get delayed so it’s not another 27 years before we see the next new MBTA stop open.   


Tom Van Heeke

Policy Analyst