Hub’s growth will strain transit, power, other services: Study

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BOSTON – The Hub is expected to be a more crowded place by 2030 and a report issued Tuesday says growth in Greater Boston’s population and workforce will require “additions” to its transportation system, energy grid, water and sewer systems as well as other infrastructure.

“As a region we must find ways to expand our infrastructure, enhance the efficiency with which we use it, and find ways to conserve energy, water, and open space in order to accommodate the population growth and expanded economic output we project through 2030,” says the report from business group A Better City and researchers at Northeastern University. “The complexity lies in determining which course to take and ultimately how to pay for it.”

Between 2010 and 2030, the report estimates, the population of Suffolk, Essex, Middlesex, Norfolk and Plymouth counties will grow by 430,000 people, or 10.5 percent, to 4.5 million.

But in the “Inner Core” of Boston and surrounding cities, population growth is expected at a higher rate – 17.5 percent – while the suburbs can plan to see growth of about 4.3 percent as fewer young people decide to live there, the report said.

Those who commute to and from Boston will have more company by 2030, with the report estimating there will be more than 14,000 additional MBTA subway commuters, more than 11,000 new bus and trolley commuters and more than 1,000 extra daily commuter rail customers.

Drivers should not expect to have it much easier. The report suggests we can expect to see at least 80,000 more cars, trucks and tractor trailers on Greater Boston roadways by 2030, an increase of about 5 percent.

All the additional workers heading into the Boston area are expected to translate into an increase of nearly 28 percent in economic output, the report predicts.

Along with growth in population and labor force, the report predicts that by 2030 the Greater Boston region will require an additional 1.25 million megawatt hours of electricity service to accommodate an overall 17.4 percent increase in service – a 10.2 percent increase in residential service and a 27.7 percent increase in commercial and industrial use. The region will also see a 14.3 percent increase in demand for natural gas, the report estimates.

Demand for water will also rise, by about 13.5 percent, and the region’s sewer systems will have to accommodate at least 5 percent more waste by 2030. Additionally, trash and recycling facilities will be asked to process an additional 130,000 tons of waste per year – 7.9 percent more than was processed in 2010, the report said.

Written by Colin A. Young