If you’ve been working remotely for the last few months, you may not have noticed, but traffic in and around Boston has completely changed! In some ways for the better and in other ways, not so much. While the roadways may seem a bit emptier, car crashes are up, and things are crawling on the T. Let’s take a closer look at current Boston traffic trends and what you can expect if you are headed back into the city to work in the next few months.
Historically, Bostonians are accustomed to traffic jams and bottlenecks, especially at the busiest times of the day. Road rage, fender benders, and the occasional HOV lane cheating is to be expected in a city this size. And while many highways have been reconstructed and improved over the past decade, there are still hundreds of feeder roads leading into Boston that need work, or at the very least, a better working signal system. Add to this the tendency of drivers to be overly distracted by technology and you have a recipe for disaster.
Trending on the Roads
While it may not be surprising that the roadways in Massachusetts have thinned out since the start of the global pandemic, it should come as a shock that car crashes are up!
Yes, in fact, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (DOT) reported that, “the rate of fatalities on roads across the commonwealth doubled in April, even as traffic dropped by 50 percent on major highways.”
DOT officials say speeding has become more of a problem for some drivers because of the empty roads brought on by the coronavirus work-from-home era. The sense that the roads are wide open may be lulling commuters into a false sense of security. Consequently, they seem to be stepping on the gas more often.
To combat the increasing numbers of fatal and more serious crashes, the Massachusetts State Police is urging the public to wear seat belts, drive sober, and heed the state’s new hands-free driving law. Commuters can also expect additional patrols and speed stops, and an overall reduction in speed on major highways due to these patrols.
Public Transportation Issues
Unfortunately, a study conducted this past summer reported that the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) ranked second-last in a study of five transit systems across the country for coronavirus safety, topping only Washington’s WMATA.
The business-backed group, A Better City, compared the Boston-based T to public transit systems in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., on a range of coronavirus safety protocols as more people start riding again. Overcrowding, causing a lack of physical distancing was one of the largest issues set for by the committee.
In response the MBTA has taken over two dozen actions including allowing for more space on buses and trains, suggesting face coverings, cleaning frequently, and stations for hand sanitizing and acquiring face masks. They have also started providing personal protective equipment to staff and conducting regular health screenings.
Whether you bike, walk, ride, or take public transit, following good hygiene rules, staying at least 6 feet apart where possible, and wearing a face covering are some of the best ways to keep yourself and the commuters around you safe during this period of changing commuting practices.