T approves N. Quincy real estate deal

Rejects test of daily commuter service to Cape Cod

THE MBTA’S OVERSIGHT BOARD on Monday approved a transit-oriented development deal in North Quincy and rejected as too expensive a proposal to test daily commuter rail service to Cape Cod.

The real estate deal calls for the T to lease its 850-spot surface parking lot adjacent to the North Quincy station to Bozzuto/Atlantic to build a mixed-use residential and retail project. The development team  agreed to build a new parking garage for the T and pay the authority $230 million over the length of the 99-year lease, which works out to an average of $2.3 million a year.

The deal gives the MBTA some additional revenue, paves the way for 579 new residential housing units in Quincy, and boosts the city’s property tax revenues by $1.6 million a year, officials said.

Once all city permits are obtained, the developer has agreed its first order of business will be the construction of a new, 1,307-space parking garage, with 852 spots reserved for commuters. The T would continue to collect parking revenues at the garage, which will be maintained by the developer.

According to T documents, three developers placed initial bids on the project and then were asked to submit their best and final offers.  Avalon Bay, which offered nearly $247 million over the length of the lease in its initial bid, dropped out during the final round. Bozzuto/Atlantic upped its initial bid from $56 million to nearly $231 million. The other bidder came in at nearly $152 million with its final offer.

The T’s Fiscal Management and Control Board also rejected a pilot project that would have brought daily commuter rail service to Bourne on the Cape. The T currently runs commuter rail service from Boston to the Cape during the summer, but the pilot project envisioned feeder service between Bourne and Middleboro-Lakeville, with connections there on the Old Colony Line into Boston.

Frank DePaola, the T’s general manager, said the pilot project envisioned three runs between Bourne and Middleboro-Lakeville in the morning and four in the afternoon over a seven-month period. The service would be provided by Mass Coastal Railroad, a freight rail service, at a cost of $200,000 a month, or $1.4 million for the entire pilot.

DePaola estimated the feeder line could have 875 potential customers per day, but he said cost estimates for the pilot were based on 300 customers. The riders would pay $3 one-way, or $6 roundtrip.  Passengers going on to Boston would also have to pay the commuter rail fare between Middleboro-Lakeville and South Station.

DePaola estimated the T subsidy per trip during the pilot would be $13.67. That compares with $30.30  per trip on the Fairmount Line and $11.30 on the Fitchburg Line, with the subsidy dropping on all other lines down to a low of $1.48 on the Needham Line.

CR net subsidy

 

Members of the T’s Fiscal Management and Control Board questioned how the ridership estimates were developed and the high cost of the service.

“This is a lot of money to be spending on a pilot,” said Monica Tibbits-Nutt, a member of the T oversight board.  “I think there are better things we can be using our money on.”

Board member Steve Poftak said he worried the service could have an even bigger financial impact on the T by ferrying passengers to the Middleboro-Lakeville commuter rail stop who would have normally driven there and parked in the T lot.

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Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Board member Brian Lang said it made no sense to be expanding commuter rail service at such a high cost at the same time the agency is eliminating late-night service because of the high cost.

DePaola indicated he would shelve the Cape Cod pilot project, but promised to gather more data on two other pilot project proposals that have been submitted to the T. One would provide regular commuter rail service to Gillette Stadium; the service is currently provided only when the New England Patriots play there.  The other proposal would offer reduced weekend fares on the Plymouth Line in a bid to drive up ridership.