Boston is choking on cars, and we’re going to have to start rethinking the way we get around. It’s only about a half mile between Mass General Hospital and the I-93 ramps. Last week during friday rush hour that drive took me nearly 45 minutes.
I’ve pasted the first part of the article here but I highly recommend going over to the Globe to read the whole thing. Some of the traffic figures are mind-boggling, and there's a cool interactive traffic map.
Gazing optimistically into the future, Mayor John B. Hynes declared on June 25, 1959, that the opening of the Southeast Expressway ushered in “a better Boston.” A freeway that could handle 50,000 cars a day, he said, met “one of the modern challenges of our times.”
How quaint that sounds today.
Hynes may have been right in the moment, but he couldn’t see the hellscape that was coming. Even with added lanes, that same highway gagged last year on a daily average of 200,000 cars. And more keep coming by the day, afflicting Boston with some of the nation’s worst congestion.
Boston’s current traffic obsession is not hyperbole: The metropolitan region has 300,000 more cars and trucks than it did five years ago, according to an analysis of state data. Congestion has crippled every major commuting thoroughfare, from the south, west, or north. Some morning drives have doubled or worse, dooming drivers to thousands of hours a year lost to staring at the red river of taillights ahead and wondering why.
The jam-and-cram has a host of collateral effects. Stalled traffic is traffic polluting in place — ask the people of Chinatown, bounded by the Mass. Turnpike and Southeast Expressway and afflicted by the region’s worst tailpipe fumes. Delivery vans, school buses, and hospital shuttles struggle to get there from here. During the evening rush, key MBTA buses have slowed to near 8 miles per hour, a pace so atrocious it would have trouble qualifying for the Boston Marathon.
The nation’s oldest subway system doesn’t make it easy to give up your car. The Red Line train that barreled off the tracks in June was built in 1969, making it nearly two decades older than half of Boston’s residents. The system has suffered about 40 derailments in the last five years, more than almost any metro transit system in the country.
The suburban commuter rail can be just as frustrating. During that merciless winter in February 2015, two out of every three trains ran late.
It is a truism but transportation makes city life work — or pushes it to the brink. People need to get to their jobs and back home to places they can afford to live.