Boston worst traffic in the country.

Arlington

Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Dec 10, 2011
Messages
4,291
Reaction score
450
% of drive time in bumper to bumper ? Never heard of that as the measure for "worst traffic" --it is potentially a good measure, but so are other things.

We have a growing economy and a static network--traffics gonna get worse, but commutes could get better if we did a better job of massing new people and workplaces where there's spare or affordable capacity--which is more like transit than road widening
 

tysmith95

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 8, 2016
Messages
2,575
Reaction score
51
Public Transit is the anwser to traffic issues. Incentivise transit use, and build around transit.
 

Scott

Active Member
Joined
May 25, 2006
Messages
658
Reaction score
32
“On one metric” = click bait.
 

Lrfox

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 16, 2006
Messages
2,614
Reaction score
139
Anecdotally, I don't think Boston's nearly as bad as some of its peers. Traffic, in my experience, is much worse in (obviously), NY and LA. For cities closer in size, SF, Dallas, DC, Atlanta and Miami are all much worse. Two of those have pretty decent transit networks too.

Don't get me wrong, Boston's traffic sucks hard. It's hot garbage. But I think it has more room for improvement than many of its peers too. We don't need to build a transit network from scratch - improvements to our existing network can increase capacity quite a bit. Targeted expansion can make it top tier network. The biggest concern with the Boston area is low density development around the core. We need to be able to build more and build higher density.
 

citydweller

New member
Joined
Aug 23, 2019
Messages
76
Reaction score
56
from: https://www.wbjournal.com/article/greater-boston-traffic-congestion-at-tipping-point

note: it's a "new" article but the report was done early this year. (go figure) It just reinforces what we already know.


Boston named the worst congested city in the U.S.

You could argue that traffic is not just a top story of 2019, but a top story of this century.

The frustration this year hit a fever pitch when INRIX deemed Boston as the most congested city in the country and a year-long Baker administration study put facts and figures on a trend most drivers had already observed.
A few lowlights from the congestion report: roads within the Route 128 belt are deemed as being in "peak period" for traffic for 14 hours per weekday; the commute from Burlington to Cambridge's Kendall Square is so unpredictable that it could take 25 minutes or it could take 75 minutes; 48 percent of roadways inside 128 are congested by 7 a.m. for the morning commute and 62 percent are congested by 3 p.m. for the evening commute.

"People in Massachusetts don't need this study to confirm what they experience every day: congestion has gone from bad to worse, from occasional inconvenience and frustration to a constant and daily reality," Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack wrote in an introduction to the findings.

The report added some context to the endless Beacon Hill debate about how to address the state's transportation woes, particularly because it explicitly warned that the growing problem could be a drag on the economy and pose significant challenges for greenhouse gas reduction efforts.

The year ended with lots of ideas floating around about addressing the problem, but no real momentum behind any of them. House lawmakers are weighing new tax, toll, fee and revenue proposals to make the MBTA and to improve public transportation options. Gov. Baker, who opposes raising the gas tax or adjusting tolls to incentivize motorists to travel off peak, is studying the idea of new highway lanes where people could pay more to travel faster and new methods of encouraging drivers to travel together rather than alone.

How successful they are at finding consensus on effective responses could determine whether traffic remains a top story this time next year.
 
Last edited:

Arlington

Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Dec 10, 2011
Messages
4,291
Reaction score
450
"adding lanes where people could pay more to travel faster" == congestion tolling, but just on new capacity. This works politically (people view it as additive), in a way that tolling existing roads doesn't (people view it as a deprivation). There's a lot to the psychlogy (people support HOV lanes if they're new, but not if they're painted on existing lanes).

A system of HOT (High Occupancy Toll) lanes is the agreed "purple" solution in Virginia (between the state-level Rs and the suburban Ds), and it would seem like a better solution than "do nothing" which has been the response in Maryland and Massachusetts, whose solid-D legislatures seem strangely unable to act regardless of whether they have a D governor (Patrick or O'Malley) or a pragmatic R (Baker or Hogan)
 

Balerion

Active Member
Joined
Apr 4, 2013
Messages
141
Reaction score
6
A system of HOT (High Occupancy Toll) lanes is the agreed "purple" solution in Virginia (between the state-level Rs and the suburban Ds), and it would seem like a better solution than "do nothing" which has been the response in Maryland and Massachusetts, whose solid-D legislatures seem strangely unable to act regardless of whether they have a D governor (Patrick or O'Malley) or a pragmatic R (Baker or Hogan)
I don't know much about MD state politics, but in MA the identity or party of the governor matters much less than what Bob DeLeo wants, and being a transportation visionary is not a mantle he's seeking to claim.

Perhaps you could say that the 2018 legislative elections contained a few warning shots from MA Dems to their representatives, but nobody in the legislature lost their seat over transportation policy. I'd imagine that the best we can hope for in terms of legislative innovation for transportation are incremental improvements on the status quo until DeLeo decides to call it a career.
 

mass88

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 10, 2008
Messages
2,020
Reaction score
24
The issue is that our highways are not wide enough to have express lanes that are tolled. You'd have to take away existing lanes and that's not going to be a popular idea. Large stretches of 128 are a tangled mess with awful interchanges (93/95 in Canton, 95/90 in Weston are prime examples) and not enough acceleration and deceleration lanes around exits cause some issues. I am not suggesting we need to be Houston or Los Angeles and have 14 and 16 lane highways. But making some modest lane additions and rebuilding and re-configuring some key interchanges could help things out. People who live in Franklin, or Walpole, or Mansfield and work in Lexington/Burlington/Waltham can't take mass transit and will always need to drive.

Unlike 93 into the city in both directions (which can be alleviated with faster and far more reliable mass transit), 128 doesn't have that benefit of sorts.
 

Arlington

Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Dec 10, 2011
Messages
4,291
Reaction score
450
In Virginia, the formerly 4-lane (each way) interstates were rebuilt the full "fence to fence" width, generally 4 "free' and 2 HOT lanes in each direction, and 2 full shoulders. (One for the general lanes and one for the HOT lanes) All paid by a PPP borrowing against future toll revenue.

I think you'd be surprised how wide the deeded width of our highways are in most places.
 

whighlander

Senior Member
Joined
Aug 14, 2006
Messages
7,542
Reaction score
517
The issue is that our highways are not wide enough to have express lanes that are tolled. You'd have to take away existing lanes and that's not going to be a popular idea. Large stretches of 128 are a tangled mess with awful interchanges (93/95 in Canton, 95/90 in Weston are prime examples) and not enough acceleration and deceleration lanes around exits cause some issues. I am not suggesting we need to be Houston or Los Angeles and have 14 and 16 lane highways. But making some modest lane additions and rebuilding and re-configuring some key interchanges could help things out. People who live in Franklin, or Walpole, or Mansfield and work in Lexington/Burlington/Waltham can't take mass transit and will always need to drive.

Unlike 93 into the city in both directions (which can be alleviated with faster and far more reliable mass transit), 128 doesn't have that benefit of sorts.
Mass -- Exactly

While there are stretches of Rt-128 [where it is also I-95 or I-93] which are quite dense along the highway ROW -- it makes no sense to try to accommodate the flow of people in cars moving circumferentially around -- since they essentially are using Rt-1289 like a giant rotary. There used to be a so-called 'Computer Commuter" who entered RT-128 from a variety of incoming routes and then exited from Rt-128 via several outgoing routes where DEC and /or one of DEC's competitors / off-spring had set-up shop. Most of that is of course long gone now -- but the R&D and light manufacturing facilities built in the 70's, 80's, 90's have been re-purposed for things such as: Bio-pharma manufacturing, medical device manufacturing, and robotics

Meanwhile new modern developments both along Rt-128 [such as Post on the site of the former USPS mail processing facility] and in the Alewife Area have led to new types of commuter patterns [exclusive of the traditional commute into core Boston / Cambridge]

Buses operated by companies, groups of companies, or developers of R&D parks are best placed to accommodate a "Private T-like" connection to existing or possibly upgraded T stations
 

tangent

Senior Member
Joined
May 11, 2012
Messages
1,778
Reaction score
52
When you have reached 95% (or more) capacity of existing infrastructure, then don't build new housing or commercial space without first building new capacity.
 

Arlington

Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Dec 10, 2011
Messages
4,291
Reaction score
450
When you have reached 95% (or more) capacity of existing infrastructure, then don't build new housing or commercial space without first building new capacity.
The problem with declarations like "we're at 95%" is that you assume that modal mix and vehicle capacity are fixed which they are not.

Raising prices is a way to signal the shortage to users and to enlist help in creating alternatives. New building can still be mixed use in the core or apartment towers with no parking rights if you are worried about road use. Higher road prices would invite/incentivize more efficient use of each lane-mile (HOV/Bus/Bike/Walk; elimination of street parking and raising prices on any that remains)

In the rest of the economy, we've never run out of any industrial input (and rarely gotten to a "95% used"status) for any other critical economic input because/when/if we allowed prices to rise and created an incentive for alternatives or conservation*

Rising prices of timber caused the innovation of coal mining (and steam engines to pump water out of them
Rising prices of whale oil and beeswax signaled the need for coal gas and kerosene for lighting.
Emergence of electricity caused the gas companies to invent the mineralized mantle (tripled light output)
More cost-efficient new thing ultimately drives the piggish old thing to novelty niche status
Horsepower got expensive when 25% of ag output was going to hay...and then internal combustion and electric motors drove horse carriages to novelty status.

Crowded free roads for commuting to work is a pricing problem, not a capacity problem.


*In contrast, we have plenty of "ran out of free stuff" examples like the Currituck Duck, American Bison, the Passenger Pigeon, where things did get used up because they seemed to be "free for the taking" As long as roads are free they'll always operate at 95% capacity and being at 95% capacity only tells you they're underpriced, not that they can't move more people.
 
Last edited:

whighlander

Senior Member
Joined
Aug 14, 2006
Messages
7,542
Reaction score
517
The problem with declarations like "we're at 95%" is that you assume that modal mix and vehicle capacity are fixed which they are not.

Raising prices is a way to signal the shortage to users and to enlist help in creating alternatives. New building can still be mixed use in the core or apartment towers with no parking rights if you are worried about road use. Higher road prices would invite/incentivize more efficient use of each lane-mile (HOV/Bus/Bike/Walk; elimination of street parking and raising prices on any that remains)

In the rest of the economy, we've never run out of any industrial input (and rarely gotten to a "95% used"status) for any other critical economic input because/when/if we allowed prices to rise and created an incentive for alternatives or conservation*

Rising prices of timber caused the innovation of coal mining (and steam engines to pump water out of them
Rising prices of whale oil and beeswax signaled the need for coal gas and kerosene for lighting.
Emergence of electricity caused the gas companies to invent the mineralized mantle (tripled light output)
More cost-efficient new thing ultimately drives the piggish old thing to novelty niche status
Horsepower got expensive when 25% of ag output was going to hay...and then internal combustion and electric motors drove horse carriages to novelty status.

Crowded free roads for commuting to work is a pricing problem, not a capacity problem.


*In contrast, we have plenty of "ran out of free stuff" examples like the Currituck Duck, American Bison, the Passenger Pigeon, where things did get used up because they seemed to be "free for the taking" As long as roads are free they'll always operate at 95% capacity and being at 95% capacity only tells you they're underpriced, not that they can't move more people.
Arlington -- Transportation over fixed routes is more complicated because its more constrained than a lot of the other examples which you mention. Cost is obviously a factor -- but the choices commuters make on how they get to work are not strongly influenced by cost -- convenience and level of irritation / frustration are part of the trade-offs.

A better analogy for highways is evolving capacity and cost over time for fixed infrastructure associated with telegraphy or telephony. In both communications cases substantial improvements in effective capacity and concomitant reduction is cost of service came from more efficient packing of messages into the existing wired infrastructure. Note that there has been a secular evolution in telecom capacity and cost reduction from the first Telegraph Message all the way to 5G. You can almost pick any 10 year window in the past 150+ years and find the same basic process at work.

The same has been and can continue to be true for highways. Consider the simple case of a highway with one lane in each direction with intersections permitting left hand turns to perpendicular roads. Just the simple invention commonly associated with New Jersey of loops [not even grade separated] to force cars to exit to the right follow the loop [aka the Jerzy Jug handle] and then cross the highway effecting a left turn -- Voila no backing-up of the traffic for left turns. Add a right turn-only lane and capacity will increase significantly with very minimal construction to the roads.

Many relatively simple changes can be made to significantly increase the capacity of existing highways at minimal costs -- providing some bypasses and separation of in / out ramps @ I-93 X I-95 north of Boston would be one. The recent rebuilding of parts of I-95 / Rt-128 where Rt-2 crosses in Lexington is an example of a successful capacity enhancement at relatively minimal effort. At the Rt-2 x I-95 several in / out lanes were reconstructed to remove the back-ups associated with crossing streams of traffic. The project perhaps should have been expanded to include a private lane along the right of I-95 N connecting Rt-2 heading W to Rt-2A [E/W] as there is a significant flow which I-95 handles localized to the Rt-2 / Rt-2A elements of the local highway network.
 

Arlington

Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Dec 10, 2011
Messages
4,291
Reaction score
450
^ Ok, so there are a lot of problems BOTH with (1) declaring that we're at 95% of capacity and (2) asserting that add-a-lane is the only way to expand capacity.

And with saying "don't build new housing...." You might say "don't build new two-car-spots-per-unit housing" and still say "do build new car-reduced (<1 spot per unit) TOD housing atop transit facilities" and "do build new zero-parking units of housing"
 

stellarfun

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 28, 2006
Messages
4,907
Reaction score
144
This is a link to the annual study of traffic congestion prepared by Texas A&M University, in conjunction with INRIX, titled the Urban Mobility Report. This is the most recent issuance of the report, dated August 2019; data are for CY 2017.


To summarize the report with respect to Boston:

Out of 47 metro areas, Boston is ranked #6 in Yearly Delay (hours) per auto commuter; Travel Time Index Boston is ranked #19; Excess fuel per auto commuter (gallons) ranked #7; Congestion Cost per auto commuter, ranked #8.
pdf p. 28

Out of 15 large metro areas, Travel delay (in hours) ranked #11; Excess fuel consumed ranked #11; Truck congestion cost #11; Total congestion cost #11.
pdf p. 32

Freeway travel time index, Boston is ranked #24 of 101 areas.
pdf p. 36
 

whighlander

Senior Member
Joined
Aug 14, 2006
Messages
7,542
Reaction score
517
This is a link to the annual study of traffic congestion prepared by Texas A&M University, in conjunction with INRIX, titled the Urban Mobility Report. This is the most recent issuance of the report, dated August 2019; data are for CY 2017.


To summarize the report with respect to Boston:

Out of 47 metro areas, Boston is ranked #6 in Yearly Delay (hours) per auto commuter; Travel Time Index Boston is ranked #19; Excess fuel per auto commuter (gallons) ranked #7; Congestion Cost per auto commuter, ranked #8.
pdf p. 28

Out of 15 large metro areas, Travel delay (in hours) ranked #11; Excess fuel consumed ranked #11; Truck congestion cost #11; Total congestion cost #11.
pdf p. 32

Freeway travel time index, Boston is ranked #24 of 101 areas.
pdf p. 36
Stellar -- there is something wrong with the statistics which you quoted
If Boston is #6 in Yearly Delay hours from a sample of 47 Metro Areas -- how is it possible to also be
#11 from a sample of 15 Large Metro Areas

Presumably the 15 are a subset of the 47 -- in that case there can only be 5 of the 47 areas with longer yearly delay hours and even if they are all Large Metro Areas -- Boston can be no lower than 6th

Actually -- Boston is only to be compared to the others in the 15 Large Metros [>3M] for each of the relevant tables in the report

National Congestion Tables
Table 1. What Congestion Means to You,

2017 Urban Area Yearly Delay per Auto Commuter Travel Time Index Excess Fuel per Auto Commuter Congestion Cost per Auto Commuter Hours Rank Value Rank Gallons Rank Dollars Rank
Very Large Average (15 areas) 83 1.35 32 1,730
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim CA 119 1 1.51 1 35 4 2,676 1
San Francisco-Oakland CA 103 2 1.50 2 39 1 2,619 2
Washington DC-VA-MD 102 3 1.35 7 38 2 2,015 3
New York-Newark NY-NJ-CT 92 4 1.35 7 38 2 1,947 4
Boston MA-NH-RI 80 6 1.30 19 31 7 1,580 8

Table 2. What Congestion Means to Your Town,
2017 Urban Area Travel Delay Excess Fuel Consumed Truck Congestion Cost Total Congestion Cost (1,000 Hours) Rank (1,000 Gallons) Rank ($ million) Rank ($ million) Rank
Very Large Average (15 areas) 309,400 110,000 $657 $6,248
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim CA 971,478 1 256,931 2 2,027 1 19,490 1
New York-Newark NY-NJ-CT 811,609 2 323,712 1 1,744 2 16,466 2
Chicago IL-IN 352,759 3 144,987 3 753 3 7,150 3
Miami FL 265,947 4 103,239 4 565 4 5,367 4
San Francisco-Oakland CA 253,838 5 95,037 6 547 5 5,175 5
Washington DC-VA-MD 247,811 6 89,885 7 527 6 5,010 6
Houston TX 247,440 7 95,940 5 522 7 4,982 7
Atlanta GA 237,405 8 76,874 10 497 8 4,754 8
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington TX 224,883 9 79,677 9 471 9 4,511 9
Philadelphia PA-NJ-DE-MD 194,655 10 80,817 8 424 10 3,967 10
Boston MA-NH-RI 189,426 11 74,143 11 404 11 3,829 11

Table 3. How Reliable is Freeway Travel in Your Town,
2017 Urban Area Freeway Planning Time Index Freeway Commuter Stress Index Freeway Travel Time Index Value Rank Value Rank Value Rank
Very Large Average (15 areas) 2.13 1.55 1.44
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim CA 2.87 1 1.93 2 1.80 1
San Francisco-Oakland CA 2.69 2 1.97 1 1.67 2
San Diego CA 2.28 7 1.54 9 1.47 9
Seattle WA 2.28 7 1.62 6 1.48 7
Washington DC-VA-MD 2.27 9 1.54 9 1.45 10
Atlanta GA 2.10 12 1.46 17 1.37 14
New York-Newark NY-NJ-CT 2.05 14 1.49 14 1.40 12
Miami FL 2.02 15 1.47 16 1.34 18
Phoenix-Mesa AZ 1.97 17 1.54 9 1.37 14
Houston TX 1.92 19 1.44 18 1.35 16
Boston MA-NH-RI 1.89 20 1.37 22 1.28 24

Now -- assuming that the above is reliable and consistent -- Boston ranks no worse than 6th in Congestion -- as would be consistent with one of the largest Urban Areas [CSA] in the country*1 -- ranking #6

In fact Boston's Congestion is consistently below the Average of its peers in nearly all the categories

U.S. Population – Combined Statistical Area Population
Rank
Combined statistical area
2010 Census
2018 Estimate
Growth (%)
1New York-Newark, NY-NJ-CT-PA23,076,66423,522,8611.9
2Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA17,877,00618,764,8145
3Chicago-Naperville, IL-IN-WI9,840,9299,866,9100.3
4Washington-Baltimore-Arlington, DC-MD-VA-WV-PA9,051,9619,797,0638.2
5San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA8,153,6968,841,4758.4
6Boston-Worcester-Providence, MA-RI-NH-CT7,893,3768,285,4075
 

stellarfun

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 28, 2006
Messages
4,907
Reaction score
144
whigh, the tables are measuring different things.
E,g., Table 1's focus is 2017 Urban Area Yearly Delay per Auto Commuter Travel Time Table 2's focus is 2017 Urban Area Travel Delay (which includes trucks and non-commuters). Table 3's focus is freeways, of which Boston has few miles. Boston's 'worst' performance is in Table 1, the automobile commute, and there it is ranked sixth, after four very large metros and San Jose.

Unlike Rifleman's Boston herald headline of several years ago, Boston, by any measure in the Texas A&M annual survey, does not have "the worst traffic in the country".
 

Top