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Amazon HQ2: The promise of a mass transit makeover

Posted by Natalie Runnerstrom on 11/20/18 9:11 AM

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If you live in Northern Virginia (NOVA) or Long Island, NY, then you've probably started to panic or have heard other people panicking about Amazon's HQ2. Maybe you've already rushed to Amazon's career page to throw your name in the ring, or maybe you haven't really had time to form an opinion yet. Well, we're here to breakdown what this means and how the new move could actually benefit your community.

Why Crystal City? For starters, Amazon Web Services is located right down the road from Crystal City, so it'll be an easy connection from one building to another. Even though NOVA and Washington, DC, will have to prepare for newcomers, Bezos wanted to come to the area because of the existing talent — that goes for Long Island as well. Virginia locals can expect renovated Metro stations near the campus, safer street designs focused on pedestrians (not cars), affordable housing, and traffic mitigations. 

For New York, the corporation is expected to continue enriching the diverse area of Queens that has been exploding with restaurants, bars, and a thriving art scene. As per the agreement, locals can contribute to Amazon's development — which is also responsible for providing space dedicated to a new public school, tech incubator, arts center, and green spaces.

The cities will be sharing the initial bid, meaning each territory is anticipating 25,000 new high-paying jobs under Amazon and a $2.5 billion investment from the mega-corporation. What has everyone worried (other than housing prices) is traffic. Bezos wanted to go to cities already supporting millions of workers because they're able to handle the influx of new residents. With infrastructures already in place, Amazon won't have to start from scratch. 

IncreasING Ridership

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A huge focus between Amazon and their selected cities is public transportation. Local governments are looking for ways to decrease pollution and increase greener living — hello, transit. Ridership is down across the nation, but Amazon brings the promise of restructuring expansive transit systems already in place in VA and NY. Employees at HQ1 in Seattle are offered unlimited transit passes, increasing ridership and employee satisfaction simultaneously.

The concern is that high-paying employees won't want to take the Metro, especially millennials whose ridership is at an all time low. What's important about having funds from Amazon dedicated to the city is that improving the DC Metro and NY Subway will benefit the entire community, not just the employees. Bezos needs to be careful about the impact his brand will have — working Amazon into the community rather than consuming the community will definitely create the most benefits for everyone. Time will tell if Amazon's presence will also aid job accessibility for low-income workers.

The Gold Standard

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New York famously has one of the oldest, most expansive underground systems in the US, and NOVA has the largest transportation demand management (TDM) program in the US — both setting a good foundation for continued growth. Amazon can set a standard for how big companies can impact existing communities, taking the time to understand how they can benefit the community outside of adding jobs. 

For example, Nestlé made its move from west to east this year when it made Rosslyn, VA home. Similarly to Amazon, Nestlé went to their talent instead of making it come to them. Creating an oasis where employees could have a relaxing environment with a stress on an appropriate work-life balance was key to this new location. Part of that process was to educate the new employees on how they can ditch their cars in the city and depend on the many transit choices to get to and from work. 


This is how Amazon can have a positive impact on the transit infrastructure embedded into the new communities they'll be residing. Though the plan for moving forward isn't clear at the moment, Amazon has put in the effort to help its current employees depend on mass transit, not cars (think funding protected bike lanes, increased bus routes, and company shuttles). We hope to see this same enthusiasm for efficient, green practices continue as Amazon expands.

Topics: Mobility, Corporate Workplace, TDM, Smart Cities