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Cambridge officials are pressing MIT to fund transit improvements in Kendall Square as the university moves ahead with a massive redevelopment project that would bring thousands more commuters into an area that’s already widely viewed as a bottleneck.

MIT’s proposed redevelopment promises to transform stale parking lots along Main Street into six buildings full of office, retail, research, and living space, with a lively streetscape below. But the project would also generate more than 5,800 vehicle trips and 7,500 transit trips each day, according to a 200-plus-page transportation study commissioned by MIT. That could put more pressure on roadways, trains, and buses.


The university has made “no substantial commitments” to ease the burden of that growth, even though the project “will create significant new demands on the local and regional transportation networks,” Cambridge Traffic, Parking, and Transportation Department staff wrote in a memo to the Planning Board this month.

The memo raised specific concerns about the project’s effect on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s Red Line and the 85 and CT2 bus lines. It also questioned MIT’s net creation of more than 1,000 parking spaces at a time when the city is trying to discourage driving. (The project includes spots for more than 1,000 bicycles, as well.)

Michael Owu, chairman of MIT’s transportation and parking committee, said the university will work closely with the city to mitigate traffic problems. He said the redevelopment wouldn’t be an overall burden on transit.


The broad challenges of getting in, around, and out of the area led to the creation in the past year of the Kendall Square Mobility Task Force, consisting of state and city officials and business and civic leaders. The group will hold a public meeting Oct. 15 at 5:30 p.m. at the Kennedy-Longfellow School on Spring Street.

Despite their concerns about traffic, city officials generally support MIT’s expansion, its support for more housing in the area, and its goal of injecting more vibrant street life into Kendall Square.

“With the right set of incentives, and right set of facilities, we can keep up that growth without it becoming unmanageable,” said Joseph Barr, director of Cambridge’s traffic department.

But other major projects, including the redevelopment of the Volpe center, are coming — and could bring their own sets of transit and traffic challenges.

Speaking of parking …

Cambridge is home to a plethora of companies and research institutions that push the boundaries of science and technology. Yet drivers in the city can’t use a smartphone app to pay for street parking — a tool rolled out in both Boston and Somerville months ago.

Barr, the Cambridge traffic guru, said city officials are working on an app-based payment system, but don’t have an expected date of arrival. So keep scrounging for those quarters.

Disaster zone

Kendall Square startups interviewing chief executive candidates just might want to inquire about their childhood histories with natural disasters.

Suffering through or witnessing horrors during a disaster can trigger risk aversion in future chief executives, according to a new study. But those who skate through disasters with no personal impact?

“They behave a lot more aggressively when they become CEOs,” Gennaro Bernile, an assistant professor of finance at Singapore Management University, told a packed lecture hall at MIT last weekend.

Those traits can matter to a company’s financial direction, Bernile argued. After all, a chief executive’s assertiveness will shape how much cash his company keeps on hand and its acquisition strategy.

Bernile won one of this year’s Ig Nobel Prizes, which honor research that makes “people laugh, and then think.” The recipients presented their findings Saturday.

Jim Carey (left) and Rachel Carey (right) kiss during a presentation on research on how kissing affects the immune system at the Ig Nobel awards, which honor goofy scientific research, at MIT in Cambridge.

Other Ig Nobel winners this year included researchers who found that most land mammals empty their bladders in roughly the same amount of time; that the nostril and upper lip are the most painful places to be stung by a bee, followed by the penis shaft; and that kissing a partner for 30 minutes can soothe certain allergic reactions.

After Japanese researcher Hajime Kimata detailed his findings that kissing a romantic partner for a half hour can ease symptoms of eczema and hay fever, a couple in the audience stood up and did an experiment of their own, smooching passionately as the crowd whistled and whooped — although just for a few seconds, not 30 minutes. No word on if the kiss eased their allergies.

A young man in the audience then asked Kimata a more practical question: “How often do I have to kiss to not have allergies again?”

MIT students in demand

MIT students — they and we are often told — go on to start companies that change the world or create therapies that save countless lives. But students recently heard a pitch to try a different career path: Go work for the government.

“You don’t have to come forever, but take a year or two and help us out,” Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research.

The government, Pritzker said, needs people like MIT students who understand technology and a changing economy. They can apply those skills through public service to affect the entire country, she said.

In her speech last Friday, Pritzker mentioned MIT alumni such as Robert Noyce, who helped found Intel Corp., and Amar Bose, founder of Bose Corp. But she also name-dropped Alan Davidson, an MIT graduate and onetime Google executive who joined the Commerce Department this year as director of digital economy, working on issues such as online privacy.

Government work, Pritzker said, is “consequential.”