Facebook reconsidering funding for Dumbarton study

As has been reported in local media, Facebook is stating publicly that they are reconsidering their commitment to fund the environmental review of Dumbarton transit options.

With the increase of telecommuting, Facebook may no longer feel that supporting the Dumbarton project to be in its interest. Recently, Facebook has announced that after the pandemic it will permanently support employees working from home. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told his staff at an online meeting that within a decade as many as half of the company’s more than 48,000 employees would work from home.

The Dumbarton corridor, which was heavily congested before the pandemic, connects two Facebook campuses on either side of the San Francisco Bay, its headquarters in Menlo Park and newer offices in Newark. Facebook is continuing to pursue a major mixed use development at its Menlo Park location, which has scaled back its still-large office component to 1.25 million square feet of office space (hosting about 7,000 employees) and increased housing to 1,735 apartments.

Starting in 2015, Facebook had contributed funding for a SamTrans study of bus and rail options on the Dumbarton Corridor, and in 2018 established a partnership with SamTrans to pursue transit on the SamTrans owned rail corridor.

Corridor leaders in San Mateo County (as reported by Streetsblog) and Redwood City at their last council meeting will be encouraging Facebook to maintain the commitment. The Bay Area is starting to see a resurgence in commute congestion and improved transit will continue to be needed.

Facebook had been reported late last year as having over $50 billion in cash on hand and could surely afford a financial commitment in the millions of dollars to complete an environmental review.

As your blogger said in response to questions from Streetsblog, Facebook has over time worked to be seen as a good neighbor, and funding completion of environmental planning would continue that role, although we understand why Facebook might not want to contribute hundreds of millions or billions toward a capital project that may no longer meet their corporate goals.

This change also makes clear why the Bay Area as a region needs to have strong public sector regional leadership for the building out of its transit network. Major transit infrastructure can have a useful life over a century, and leadership for such major societal investments needs to come from the public sector with the public’s longterm goals in mind, rather than the more rapidly changing goals of private businesses.