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Facebook considered reviving a disused railway line to make it easier for workers to reach its Menlo Park headquarters, report says

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The old Dumbarton Rail Bridge seen from Menlo Park, Calif., on Thursday, February 28, 2019.The Dumbarton Rail Bridge across San Francisco Bay as viewed from Menlo Park, California.

Yalonda M. James/Getty Images

  • Facebook spent $20 million on plans to revive a railway line that would run near its office.
  • Meta’s Juan Salazar told The New York Times it wanted to reduce congestion caused by its staff.
  • Political pressure and impatience put pressure on plans that were abandoned after the pandemic.  

Facebook spent $20 million on plans to revive an old railway line to Silicon Valley, but political hurdles and COVID-19 led it to abandon the idea, a report says.

The New York Times reported that the company tried to renovate the Dumbarton Rail Bridge to streamline traffic to its headquarters while expanding its property portfolio.

The Times reported that Warren Slocum, president of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, wanted to restore the Dumbarton Rail Corridor, an 18-mile stretch that passes Meta’s Menlo Park headquarters. 

To do so, the bridge which has laid dormant for four decades would need a costly renovation. Slocum told the Times he approached tech companies including Facebook in 2017 to discuss securing funds.

Facebook stood to benefit from the idea. Its headcount multiplied nearly ten-fold between 2011 and 2017 to 25,000 employees as it expanded and acquired Instagram and Whatsapp. 

But this growth helped cause significant traffic congestion around Silicon Valley, according to a feasibility study

Meta’s local policy and community engagement director, Juan Salazar, told the Times: “It was something that would not just help us as a company in terms of bringing our employees in but also help the region.” 

Facebook spent $20 million over the next three years on the project, per Salazar, which included hiring staff with experience in rail projects and contracting consultants to look at things including pods to transport commuters across the corridor. Parts of the railway were expected to be operational by 2028, per the Times report.

However, several factors conspired to see the $2.6 billion project shelved. More than a dozen people told the Times that political dysfunction in the region, and Facebook’s own growing impatience, put early pressure on plans.

The end came when the pandemic struck and ushered in a new era of remote working, unintentionally solving much of Silicon Valley’s traffic problem.

“I was heartbroken,” Slocum said of the project’s collapse. “I understood some of the business reasons, but heartbroken nonetheless.”

Meta has sought to reduce office space in recent months and laid off 11,000 employees in November as its bet on VR continues to hemorrhage money. 

The company did not immediately respond to a request for further comment from Insider.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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