Inside Boston’s Changing Rush Hour Traffic – NBC Boston
Traffic is back in Boston, alright.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation says that 95% of all drivers are now on the roads, which means that on any given day there are approximately 750,000 people commuting into the city.
But since the pandemic, said highway manager Jonathan Gulliver, we are seeing changes in when, where and who travels.
“Mondays are the lightest days. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are by far the heaviest. Friday morning is very light,” Gulliver said.
Mark Van Der Hyde is one of the many people now able to work from home on weekend bookends. But when he has to drive to Boston from Dracut in the middle of the week, he expects bumper-to-bumper traffic.
“I guess I’m resigned to sitting in traffic for an hour or two in the morning,” Van Der Hyde said.
The Hub is the second most congested city in the United States and the fourth most congested worldwide, according to INRIX, a company that analyzes traffic data around the world. Only drivers in London (156 hours), Chicago (155) and Paris (138) lost more hours in traffic in 2022.
On the MassDOT Dashboard, the average time for someone like Mark to pass through Interstate 93 on a Monday morning at 8 am is 54 minutes. But on a Tuesday, it’s 67 minutes.
It’s even worse if you’re heading from the south coast. The average on the Freeway on Mondays at 8 am is 56 minutes, but at the same time on Wednesdays, it is dragging on 83 minutes.
Even the actual rush hours have changed.
Take Route 3 North out of Weymouth. In 2019, it often peaked at 5 a.m. and held steady until around 9 a.m. At the same time, last November, the duration of the worst traffic was cut in half, from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m.
But that’s the same number of cars in a shorter period of time, which equals more brake lights.
What has also changed is where people are moving from.
“The turnpike was the first road to go down during the pandemic, and it was the last to really pick up,” Gulliver said.
He noted that the number of cars on the Mass. Pike heading to Boston dropped 17-20%, depending on the day, last year compared to 2019.
“People who come from the west generally have types of jobs where they have those opportunities where they can work remotely,” Gulliver said.
A new study has calculated how much time working from home saves remote workers and what people are doing with their new free time.
That helps drivers on I-95 south from the Mass. Pike to Route 3, where commute times have been cut by 31%. But the time it takes to make the trip on the Expressway from the Braintree fork to Mass. Ave. has increased by almost 30%.
The new breed of flex workers also means that you’ll sometimes run into traffic in the middle of the day.
“Now they work from home in the morning and come to the office in the afternoon. They arrive at noon and their noon commute is a little bit busier than it used to be,” Gulliver said.
Small business owner Art DiGioia watches NBC10 Boston every morning to decide how to approach his day.
“Basically, I look at what’s going on and where I need to be,” he said.
MassDOT Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver joined NBC10 Boston Monday morning to discuss the impact of the Orange and Green Line closures earlier this business week. Gulliver said it will be very important for drivers to respect bus routes and turn lanes, which must be open for shuttle buses and emergency vehicles. Gulliver said they expect people to do what they can to move their discretionary travel, and for anyone along the way to pay extra attention. Patience will be key over the next few weeks, he said, adding that they are well prepared and will closely monitor traffic hotspots like Sullivan Square. He said the biggest concern is that people don’t make the detour, which causes so much traffic that there is an unmanageable gridlock.
So if there’s a crash that will disrupt your trip, you’ll consider rescheduling a meeting or just taking it virtually.
“My commute time today was from my bedroom to the kitchen,” DiGioia joked.
The pandemic also led businesses to go completely remote. For workers like Kara Sassone, it means she’s put the stress of a commute in the rearview mirror.
“A simple crash, a fender crash can really derail any program,” he said.
He went from rushing to make sure he could pick up his kids on time to a new kind of trip: taking them to school.