Thursday, May 17, 2007

Are There Another 1000 New Employees Hiding in BC's Master Plan?

Are there 1000+ additional, new employees possibly lurking around, un-mentioned, in Boston College's master plan? If so, this would have profound impact on their planning for parking and transportation.

In their presentation to the BC Task Force on April 17 and May 15, 2007, Boston College planners from Sasaki stated that BC will have the following increase in their personnel in the course of the master plan:

100 new faculty (primarily natural/life sciences)
175 new graduate students
0 new support staff

Really now, BC claims no additional staff? Huh?

For anyone who has ever walked into a life sciences research laboratory on a university campus, they know that the number of support staff (in addition to students) easily dwarfs the few members of the faculty. Those extra people are the post-doctoral researchers, scientific staff, techs, dishwashers, stock room employees, custodial staff, secretaries, grant specialists, etc. Lots of 'em -- especially the post-docs in the life sciences. Maybe some might be full-time contract workers (i.e., not technically BC employees), but their impact is identical on parking, traffic, and the transportation infrastructure.

A simple example: the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology (mcB) in Harvard's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Using their online directory (February 2007):

43 Faculty (including 4 emeritus)
117 Graduate students
59 Other
165 Postdoctoral fellows
201 Staff
57 Undergraduate students
0 Visiting Fellow
585 Total (excluding undergraduates)

The ratio of total employees to faculty is then (117+59+165+201+43)/43 = 13.6. Yes, that means one faculty member plus 12.6 other employees equals 13.6.

Similar numbers exist for research departments in the Harvard Medical School, such as the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology.

In BC's numbers, however, the ratio of total employees to faculty is then (100+175+0)/100 = 2.75:1.

Compared to Harvard, BC's numbers appear wrong by a factor of five!!!

If Harvard's planning numbers are used instead, then we would expect 100 new BC faculty members to result in a total (faculty + non-faculty) of more than 1360 new employees (including graduate students). That is 1085 employees more than BC suggests would be added in the course of their master plan. No small peanuts. And certainly not a case of no significant impact.

Boston College has not publicly stated their transportation mode share, i.e., the percentage of their employees who drive vs. walk vs. bike vs. take mass transit. Informed people in the neighborhood state that their auto mode share is actually quite high, 70-80%. (Harvard overall has a 27.4% auto mode share according to DEP report, which includes Cambridge, Allston, and Longwood. The 27.4% value is low primarily due to extreme shortage of parking in Longwood. Harvard's Allston employees are currently 58%, while Harvard is targetting 50% auto mode share for their Allston master plan.)

If 75% of these 1360 new BC employees drive to work, then BC needs to build 1020 new, net parking spaces. But their current master plan only builds 105 new, net parking spaces.

They are off by more than 900 parking spaces. Ouch.

I could be wrong a bit in a few details in the math since BC has not yet formally filed their master plan. But the numbers so far presented don't pass the smell test. Let's hope they dig deeper and come up with realistic numbers for the increase in employees associated with their master plan. Harvard did, although they basically suppressed the information by burying it within Table 3-3 of their January 11, 2007 IMPNF.

If BC doesn't build the parking on-campus, then where will all these extra employees try to park? I think the residents of Brighton already know: on our streets. Ouch again.

Where will the extra cars travel to get to work? Through intersections like Lake Street and Commonwealth Avenue, already rated a level F for service. Ouch yet again.


Charlie Denison said...

It's an interesting dilemma. Typically if you build parking and make it convenient, MORE people will drive. I would say that not building more parking is a GOOD thing for BC, as it discourages people from driving.

As you mention, though, you need to make sure BC employees that don't have parking on campus don't try to park off campus instead.

Notorious T.O.D. said...

i wonder what would happen if bc proposed a new parking structure in its plans... oh wait, im 100% sure hypocrites like you would fight it to the death just like every other aspect of bc expansion... as a current brighton resident i was very sympathetic to your position upon moving in last summer but after hearing a year full of outrageous complaints from "concerned citizens" such as yourself i have realized there is very little logic behind many of your claims

Andrea said...

Notorious TOD- You hit the nail on the head. These activists would fight anything BC tried to do, no matter what it is. Logic has no place in their arguments. They'll be happy with nothing less than BC shutting its doors.

Michael Pahre said...

If there are, in fact, more employees in BC's future plans than currently account for, then building another parking structure might be one solution. But don't jump to such conclusions prematurely.

A different solution would be for BC to adopt an aggressive TDM (Transportation Demand Management) program, more similar to those at other institutions in the City. Effective TDM programs can include increases in on-campus parking rates (to discourage driving), subsidizing MBTA monthly passes (to encourage use of public transportation), installing bicycle racks and indoor showers (to encourage bicycling), etc.

The issue is more complicated than several commenters here seem to recognize.