Traffic Ahead

Developers tend to focus only on the nearby traffic consequences of their own project and to portray the consequences as manageable through local road improvements.  In fact, the rising congestion that we are experiencing is the cumulative result of development all across the region.

In 2013, several legislators came together to ask the state’s Central Transportation Planning Staff (CTPS) to undertake a study of whether we have the necessary transportation capacity to support the growth we are expecting.  CTPS began the study in 2015 with the blessing of the Metropolitan Planning Organization and produced a complex report earlier this year.

Here are some of the background observations from the report.

  • Employment and population are expected to increase substantially in the urban core by 2040, while growth will be more modest in the more distant suburbs.
  • While working at home and biking to work have both increased dramatically over the last couple of decades, transit and motor vehicle use have also increased.  Transit and road demand are both expected to continue to increase over the decades to come.  It is often possible for a  household to locate so that one member is close to work, but it is hard to assure a short commute for all members of a household at once.
  • Over the last couple of decades, Red and Green Line ridership have increased over 28% and commuter rail ridership has increased by over 75%, while bus ridership has grown only 3%
  • Since 1970, total miles driven on limited access highways have doubled in the inner core and more than tripled in the outer suburbs and statewide.  This increase on limited access highways correlates with increases on all secondary roads and we experience this as increasing congestion.

Troubling projections include the following:

  • A segment of roadway starts to slow down and is considered congested when it is running at over 85% of its capacity.  In 2012, 25% of the road-miles of limited access highways and arterial streets in the core were over 85% of capacity in the morning rush and 39% were overcapacity in the evening rush.  By 2040, in the mornings, congestion will extend to 34% our road-miles and in the evening, 51%. Many other roadways will be approaching the congested level.  Note that congestion is higher in the evening because there are more non-commute trips occurring in the evening.
  • Most major routes in and serving my district are already congested on some segments.  Already congested routes that will become congested on more segments include Route 2, Concord Avenue, Fresh Pond Parkway, Mount Auburn Street, Memorial Drive, Storrow Drive, the Pike, Beacon Street, Commonwealth Avenue, the Bowker/Charlesgate Overpass, Massachusetts Avenue and Harvard Avenue.
  • By 2040, the Red Line between Alewife and Park Street, which is often near the acceptably full level today, but not (usually) “unacceptably” full, will frequently be unacceptably full with substantial delays in boarding at rush hour.  The core segments of the Green Line, which are already unacceptably full much of the time, will become consistently unacceptably full at rush hour.  The only line which is not expected to see much overcrowding is the Blue Line.
  • The 71 and 73 buses, which service Watertown and Belmont, already stand out as the two most overcrowded bus lines in the system.  They are expected to grow 8% by 2040, reaching rider-to-seat ratios of 1.6 and 1.9 respectively — the MBTA considers 1.4 the maximum acceptable.  The 70 bus, which runs from Cambridge through Watertown to Waltham, will cross the 1.4 level by 2040 for the evening commute, as will the 66 and the 86, non-radial bus lines that service Allston and Brighton.

Controlling traffic to improve local quality of life and ease the daily commute is one of my top priorities as a legislator.  I’ll be posting on some of the more helpful solutions on the table over the weeks to come. Your thoughts welcome at any time!

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

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82 Comments

  1. Thanks for the summary on this Senator Brownsberger. I will share this with others in the general community at-large.

  2. I am often cruising around the larger perimeter roads (128, 24, 495) and see heavy congestion. I am disappointed that, at least for 128, the emphasis seems to be on increasing auto capacity by widening the roadway. Why don’t traffic planners add capacity for mass transit? There recently some discussion of adding tolls to more roads (1, 9, etc.). Maybe that would encourage mass transit, but the capacity has to be in place first. I was recently in London and was impressed by the Tube and bus system.

    1. Yes, especially since widening roads has long been shown to not be a solution at all. Induced demand just leads to wider congested highways. Public transportation is the only reasonable solution, though I am curious how self-driving technology will impact this issue in the long-term.

    2. London is a great example. They imposed a “congestion toll” on peak-hour driving into the city center. This immediately improved transit:
      1. Fewer cars = more open roads = faster bus service
      2. By selling bonds backed by revenue from present & future congestion fees, they were able to buy & lease more bus capacity right away, improving transit to serve those who could not afford or chose not to pay the congestion toll. This in turn encouraged even more people to leave the car at home.

      Let’s do this here!

  3. Build a connector of some sort from Alewife to the new end of the Green line stop. Either a Gondola, some Cable car system, or underground moving staircase.

  4. Clearly major investments are needed. Red/Green/Orange lines need to be upgraded to run more frequently and at significantly greater speeds. Commuter Rail needs to run much more frequently and throughout the day. 71/73 and Silver Line ought to be upgraded to run on tracks, more frequently, and not amongst cars. And commuting by car should be discouraged in any way possible, perhaps by raising the automobile excise and gas tax significantly and devoting the resulting revenue to public transport.

  5. We need to get serious about addressing transportation needs. In recent decades many towns including Cambridge and Belmont have narrowed arterial roads, impeding the buses, and we have only slightly increased the capacity of the subway system, while numerous new businesses moved to our area. Personally, I commuted by 73 bus for more than 15 years, but the recent narrowing of Belmont Street / Trapelo has reduced the capacity of the 73 line so that I can never get a seat in the morning, often the bus does not even open its doors at my bus stop to accept passengers since it is overcrowded, and once I manage to squeeze onto a bus it takes more than 20 minutes for the bus to travel the 2 miles from my stop to Harvard (i.e. it is traveling 6 mph; if I was a jogger I could beat the bus). So I recently decided to purchase a car, and now I am contributing to the traffic congestion. But at least I can sit down while I am commuting. We need to get serious about making a transportation system (roads + buses + subways) that has enough capacity that people can get to their jobs at rush hour in a reasonable period of time. This is only going to get worse as more businesses move to Kendall Square and the Innovation District.

  6. Will,
    Thanks for the summary. I have to go through the detailed report for more information. That said, given there are plans for a road diet on Mt. Auburn wouldn’t this report make us take pause when thinking about making 4 lanes into 2(as I have read that study and many of the intersections are at bad grade levels already). I understand the need for better pedestrian paths for crossing(needed!) though an unprotected bike lane serves almost no one(protected bike lane would serve many more). This study is a good step in facing the reality of the cumulative affect of new development, lack of good options of public transportation(from Watertown specifically) and more businesses moving into Boston from the suburbs. Possibly an additional commuter rail stop at the Brighton/Watertown/Newton line could be created to serve much of the development at the Arsenal St/Brighton/Newton/Watertown). Boston Landing takes 20 min at least to get to(rush hour) and then not much parking there either. Shuttle may help but still going to take quite sometime to get there in shuttle. The express buses are good for many but not great for SeaPort district.
    I’m wondering why Arsenal St was not included(at least from what I read in the Appendix)? I know there are changes that will occur in the next couple years(light timing certainly will help:>). This is another congested road which is heavily used today.
    Not an easy nut to crack but one we all need to attempt to crack, with multiple ideas! Thanks again.
    Kate

  7. Take all those numbers with a very large grain of salt.

    Modelling is only as good as the people who program the model and the data that gets fed into it. Garbage in, garbage out.

    The people who write these models have an incentive to exaggerate — it justifies their funding and they also use it to make claims on funding for big road-building projects.

    When I examined the actual data for Allston-Brighton, available from MassDOT, a few years ago I found that between 2000 and 2012 the measured traffic counts had decreased in all but one urban counting location. This is in stark difference to the counts on the Mass Pike, which do increase. But urban streets are not like the Mass Pike! It doesn’t serve to conflate the two.

    Models never seem to predict the actually observed decline in car counts on urban streets, and when a model turns out to be wrong it is quietly forgotten instead of investigated and its lessons learned. This causes me to question the models.

    (The other reason I question the models is that I’m a computer scientist who studies program verification and I’ve seen the inside of many programs used in various models, and they are far from pristine — full of bugs and ‘hacks’ like any other computer code)

    I think that any prediction method that tries to model human beings as if they are molecules or little machines is going to fail, necessarily. Policies and methods need to be adopted that treat people as, well, people! Who respond to their environment and interact with each other as social beings.

    In other contexts the meaning of ‘congestion’ is entirely different. In Amsterdam, I’ve been amazed to find that ‘rush hour’ has very few cars. Instead the ‘traffic jam’ is on the cycle-ways, a very quiet but busy crowd of tinkling spokes and the occasional rattle, people chatting with other as they go along. Whereas in Tokyo the ‘congestion’ is almost entirely on the railway network, in stations and trains that are overcrowded but managed superbly anyway.

  8. I feel like this point above is too conciliatory to drivers who need not be drivers:
    “While working at home and biking to work have both increased dramatically over the last couple of decades…”

    I encounter a large number of people living in the core who choose to drive who need not do so. Building out roads more will just encourage more driving to where we hit the same congestion problems at a higher scale and after much investment and with more pollution and car noise. Instead we (or Boston) should consider congestion charges, reduced or pricey core parking and focus the bulk of investment to improve mass transit solutions, provide more dense and affordable housing close to the new businesses and continue to make roads safer for bicyclists and pedestrians. I seem to recall the number of non-car owners in the core as being somewhere over 30% in Boston vs. over 40% in NYC. Maybe we could make it a goal to catch up to NYC on this stat.

    This is a core centric approach, however when those of us in here don’t drive it also helps those on the periphery who must, in that there’s more road for you to use.

    1. NOt only are they increasing traffic (see recent “Starts and Stops” in Boston GLobe), the drivers just stop in the middle of the road to pick up/discharge passengers, slow down while looking at their map screens, and make abrupt turns to get to an address. Licensing Uber/Lyft like taxis would HELP A LOT.

      Suggestion #2: traffic cops at some intersections (eg, Mt Auburn St/Grove St) would prevent red-light rushers and intersection hoggers — far less $ than new curbs, roadways, etc.

  9. I seem to recall someone was attempting to propose a solution to bus bunching. I use the 73 bus line and during the morning commute more often than not the buses are very late, then arrive two or three together. Overcrowded buses could be relieved if this situation could be fixed. Also, is there any procedure for increasing the number of buses available in the commuting direction? Can some buses making the return trip westward in the morning, for example, run “Out of Service” in order to get back to the beginning of the trip sooner? If we can’t increase the number of buses (why not?) then can we improve the flow?

    1. Bunching happens on all transportation services that are subject to delay. When the lead bus gets held up, it starts to slow down more because it picks up more riders. Then the buses behind catch up.

      The solution in the works for bus bunching is to use GPS to see when it is starting to occur and start buses on a delay so that they won’t catch up. The T is working with MIT on algorithms to do that better.

  10. I wholeheartedly support he North South Rail Link, which will allow future electrification of the commuter rail, which in turn will mean faster, more efficient, and cheaper trains which will help increase capacity and ridership.

    I’d also suggest the Metro Boston area look into congestion pricing, which has proven successful in places like Stockholm and London. The revenue from this, along with gradually raised gas taxes and tolls, should be used to invest in dedicated bus lines, more trains, and repairs to roads and bridges.

  11. Some of my random observations:

    The B line is soooo slow. And often packed. Joggers are often faster. It is embarrassing how much faster taking my bike is than taking the T, but biking is not always practical. And a trip to the airport on public transportation (from Brighton) takes three to four time as long as driving, thanks in part to the speedy Ted Williams Tunnel.

    On Comm Ave, cars are often illegally stopped waiting to pickup or drop off people at BU. Same with package delivery trucks. They often block the bike lane and half a travel lane, squeezing everyone into one lane.

    Cars are always double parked on Brighton Ave in Allston.

    The lights on Comm Ave are never in sync, making Comm Ave slow. I often hit 3 or 4 lights when I take Comm Ave through Allston. Nice and wide Comm Ave should be fastest way through Allston, but it isn’t.

    Addressing traffic congestion now is important, thanks.

  12. Is it hopelessly naive to say resist / contain further development? Your post says to me that we’re already overpacked. The Route 2/Fresh Pond rotary converged jam happens regularly in my neighborhood– for long stretches of time and road. Honestly, what fixes that other than not adding more demand?

    1. There are huge pressures on the other side — jobs, money making opportunities and the reality of affordable housing needs. We probably can’t and may not really want to limit demand. We have to focus on the transit solutions.

  13. Thank you for update on study of the impact of development as compared to our transportation system capacity forecasts more congestion in the neighborhoods you serve. As you know the Green Committee of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay (NABB) has long shared these exact concerns particularly as we try to raise awareness about the effects of increased greenhouse gas emission from new Back Bay pipeline proposed to serve the supposed needs of new development project currently under review. This new gas infrastructure will make it difficult to reach the City’s Climate Action Goals.

  14. Note that on congested roads, a tiny decrease in traffic can lead to a massive savings in user time (see link below).

    “The engineers calculate that if you were to reduce the number of car commuters from those 15 areas just 1 percent, all drivers across Boston would get home about 18 percent faster each night.”
    https://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2013/02/17/traffic-which-boston-area-neighborhoods-are-blame/h5qqR3CrHDM3xCNsTqdYxH/story.html

    If we can get just a small number of cars off the roads, buses will run much faster. Faster buses might in turn encourage fewer people to drive.

  15. Thanks Will… all one has to do is try to circumnavigate Belmont Center at the morning and evening commuting hours to see first hand the traffic issues that are mounting each day!
    Thank you for your efforts!
    Alex Corbett

  16. Some observations:
    1 – Make parking free for T-travelers and ridership might increase.
    2 – Having buses stop for a light or stop sign and then stop again on the other side of intersections to pickup/ discharge passengers makes rides longer, increases brake wear and extra stops/ starts time, increases fuel use and increases emissions.
    3 – Printed bus schedules should be changed to DEPARTING times, rather than ARRIVAL times. When they arrive early, then leave early people trying to catch a particular bus which has left early are left waiting and perhaps being late for whatever appointment/job they’re headed for.
    4 – Traffic lights on long stretches of roadways should be timed for travel at a particular speed so one should not have to stop at every light. For example on Arsenal St., especially after malls have closed–one should be able to leave a stop light and travel the entire length of this street at a certain speed (20, 25, 30 MPH of whatever is deemed safe) and not have to stop AT ANY OTHER LIGHT until the end. Computers could figure this out.

  17. Please advocate for more platform controllers on the Red and Green Line stations to get people on and off the trains more efficiently. We can get more trains and move more people if they weren’t sitting in the stations for longer than they are supposed to. Time is Money in this city!

  18. Does this study take into consideration that the population of Allston/Brighton is in the process of increasing by a MASSIVE 30% from the 7000+ approved apartment construction over the last couple years?

  19. Tolls can (and should?) be part of the solution.

    A “Congestion Toll” like they have in London would be best – one that’s coordinated, with revenues used to immediately improve transit. But barring that:

    Very small tolls on individual corridors can lead to a massive change in behavior. The Tobin Bridge, which till recently tolled drivers ($2.50) in only the southbound direction, gives us excellent data: There was a major behavior difference: 51000 cars/day in the free direction, 34000 cars/day in the tolled direction. That’s a full 1/3 difference! Concurrently, Rutherford Ave saw a roughly equal imbalance: far more cars using it southbound than northbound. These were drivers avoiding the $2.50 toll.

    Tolls work – to discourage unnecessary driving (with a comprehensive congestion charge), or by pushing traffic elsewhere (if only parts of the system are tolled). I wonder what would happen if (for example), Rutherford Ave was tolled (with local residents exempted) and the Tobin was free? Something very easy to simulate in software, and even easy to try with cashless tolling systems. Would the result look something like this?
    1. Would it push through-traffic from Rutherford Ave to the highways, Route 1 and Interstate 93?
    2. With less traffic on the surface arterial, buses would run much faster; biking and walking would be safer and more comfortable.
    3. Safer biking, faster buses would encourage some drivers displaced to the highway to try transit or other alternatives.
    4. There are always alternatives for some portion of the population, like carpooling, or getting into the city earlier and hitting the gym before work.
    5. One way or another, a congestion equilibrium on the highway will be reached.

  20. Thanks, Will. I just wanted to add that the Cushing Square development and increasing school enrollments in Belmont are taking us into LA levels of traffic. Ever since the mods have been added, at Burbank for example, there are cars parked on both sides of many side streets. There are near miss head-on collisions coming off of School Street almost daily. And this will only get worse. In addition to buses, subways, bikes, could we not create town-wide neighbor to neighbor carpooling? Ride shares, etc. Tech could be our friend on this score. Again thanks for all that you do. This is critical.

  21. Please include the 65 bus to get looked at. It’s already often too crowded to get on by the time it gets to Comm Ave/leaves Brighton inbound or by the Longwood stop outbound. (Leaving parents with kids & carriages or wheelchair riders not able to fit on, especially in bad weather and winter).The green line (B) closes almost every winter storm. Thanks for looking into this.

    1. The comment about overcrowding on the 65 bus is right on, and raises a larger issue. One can’t squeeze on to the bus during the rush hour, but midday it runs too infrequently, and it stops all together about 9:00 p.m. I suspect other routes have these same problems. You note that bus ridership is only up 3%. That may well be because the service is so bad. While we are waiting (for decades?) for light- and heavy-rail extensions and the Urban Ring, we need bus transit that works.

  22. Thank you Will.

    We see that the streets are full during commuting hours. We read that the commuting hours are increasing. The speeds are declining. The capacity of the Red Line is hindered by maintenance. The capacity of the Red Line won’t increase till 2023. The Red Line won’t extend along Mount Auburn Street till sometime(?). What is the imperfect but best answer?

    Now under engineering study are inexpensive and mostly a municipal controlled bus lanes. Some of the bus lane opportunities along the Western Edge of Cambridge, including parts of Watertown, Belmont, and Arlington, are: (1) Mount Auburn Street from the Cambridge Line East to and across Fresh Pond Parkway, (2) the two access roads connecting the Alewife T and Route 2 (each access is wider than two way Concord Avenue near Huron Avenue with three bus routes), and (3) Massachusetts Avenue in multiple stretches, including across the Arlington/ Cambridge Line. On these, the engineering work begun includes Transit Signal Preference (TSP), to green light buses.

    Bus lanes will also move faster the bus and van services of corporate, medical, and educational institutions. Safe and direct desire lines for walk and bike routes will enhance commuter movement.

    Yet, safety is challenged during shoulder commuter times and open street periods, when driver speed, inattention, and aggression rise as a challenge to all of us and to the connections among our neighborhoods and our children going safely to school by themselves. We can encourage safe policing and we should implement speed tables on our streets designed for the new speed limit, 25 MPH, for the safety of all of us.

    Again, thank you Will, for taking up this issue of daily commuting and safety for our neighborhoods.

  23. So now that the expected increases in congestion have been identified, and as a Belmont constituent, I can fully attest to the congestion on Route 60 during and in-between drive times, has this commission begun to tackle some remediation planning? I have read all the other comments. The green line is especially run poorly, the ideas of having returning trams and buses be “out of service” to get them back to starting point is excellent, having two piggy-backed for inbound in the morning out the same at evening commutes would assist over-capacity issues and riders being left stranded CAN BE HANDLED with modern oversight and planning. The T uses antiquated planning and, and it feels as if it is unwilling to serve as change agents to serve the public more effectively. Little $$$$$ oversight is a decades long problem, needs onbusman like Federal OMB. Keep up the good work.

    1. And bus lanes on the Access Roads to the Alewife T would improve service for rush hours. The Access Roads are each wider than the two lanes of Concord Avenue in Cambridge toward Huron Avenue. Buses and cars pass side by side, even with encroaching parked cars.

      Ask your Representative for bus lanes, the MASSDOT has to act as the access roads are theirs. 5 MBTA bus routes use the access roads, at least 15 buses if they were on schedule.

    2. FWIW, I really think the management team is working hard dto put better bus and trolley management practices in place. They’ve been working MIT on some interesting scheduling technology. They certainly accept that they need to keep improving.

  24. Will,

    Thanks for sharing this report. I have experienced a big increase in traffic over recent years, and it is very frustrating as well as time-consuming. It’s awful thinking about how much worse it will be given what this report says. Please do everything you possibly can to improve this situation.

    Thanks very much.

  25. Honestly, we need to see more people move to mass transit. MBTA is stretched financially, but we need to add buses on some routes. Also, some of these buses in Belmont should be rerouted to funnel riders to Alewife and the commuter rail stations. Just a thought.

    1. And bus lanes on the Access Roads to the Alewife T would improve service for rush hours. The Access Roads are each wider than the two lanes of Concord Avenue in Cambridge toward Huron Avenue. Buses and cars pass side by side, even with encroaching parked cars.

      Ask your Representative for bus lanes, the MASSDOT has to act as the access roads are theirs. 5 MBTA bus routes use the access roads, at least 15 buses if they were on schedule.

  26. Please keep the response of emergency public services in the equation. It is already impossible for Boston EMS to respond a paramedic staffed unit to Brighton in less then 18 minutes. This is well outside the recognized response times.for a unit capable of performing the emergency treatment they are the only public service agency trained to deliver! An overdose victim requiring entubation would likely die in Allston or Brighton.

  27. we have to stop building more condominium complexes in which each resident has a car. how to do with and still increase affordable housing? need for upgrades of the subways goes without saying. more scheduled — and on time —
    commuter rail trains needed. Maybe some bonus for households that agree to one car per household instead of 2, 3 or 4.

  28. Contributing to the congestion are roads that are in poor repair. I have lived just east of Watertown Square for 18 years and for the past 5 years there’s been constant building construction, construction noise (trucks, backup beepers, nail guns, digging, etc.), utility additions (improvements? Who knows for sure!), digging up streets, etc. Main Street intersections (e.g. at Myrtle, French, all of Waverley near Belmont St. etc.) are like riding a roller coaster. I dare anyone to put a half cup of coffee in their auto cup holder and drive 10mph without splashing it all over. Why can’t we demand that contractors patch or repair to higher standard? Now retired, I was one of those people who worked from home and there were times I had to cancel and postpone a conference call because of the construction noise.

    Without construction, it used to take me about 7-8 minutes to drive the 1.1 miles to my dad’s house in Newton. Now it can take 15-20 minutes depending on time of day and traffic.

    Thank you, Will, for being a great rep and for keeping your constituents informed!

    1. I agree completely and don’t understand why it is allowed. Nobody wants higher gas prices but it makes no sense to save on utilities while spending more money on paving roads and repairing cars, not to mention endangering people on bicycles or motorcycles because of the poor conditions of the roads.

      It appears to me that this is a on of the main reasons for the poor condition of our roads.

      Examples are Common Street at Orchard Street in Watertown, Warren Street in Allston/Brighton, and Soldier’s Field Road near North Beacon Street in Brighton, all cut open within or close to a year after repaving, all patched in extremely poor quality.

    2. Thanks, Anne.

      Getting the utilities to patch better is an endless struggle. I’ve had many conversations about this — the utilities have a lot of autonomy and are clothed with the right to tear up our roads in emergencies. To be fair, I guess it is hard, in practice, to make patches consistently perform well.

  29. Several current policies exacerbate the predicted growth in congestion.

    First is the narrowing of arterial roads, like the recent renovation of Trapelo road. This not only increases delays but also increases traffic on residential streets that offer short cuts and run arounds congestion.

    Second is zoning and other policies which are increasing density and population in the urban core and near suburbs.

    In the end it is these policies that keep increasing demand. We will never solve the transportation problem by looking exclusively at transportation — whether it’s buses, trains, cars or bicycles — unless work on controlling density and maintaining the throughput of our existing arterial infrastructure.

  30. Did we really need a study to get this information? Our populations have been increasing. Our roads and transportation infrastructure have remained stagnant for years. Even the Big Dig did not significantly affect the road’s capacity, it just improved the flow somewhat.
    The T is a mess. Commuter rail is inefficient and cannot really increase capacity unless South Station is greatly modified. A South Coast rail expansion is needed, but the “Middleboro Extension” will only make that worse.
    Some effort to control growth is needed. We cannot continue to pack people into limited areas without some deleterious effect.

  31. Thank you Senator,

    Have you and the team reviewed the Envision Cambridge report and Cambridge Climate Change Vulnerability Assessments that also discuss current and projected transportation challenges? Among these are projections of subway inundation and over three feet of flooding in the Fresh Pond area once the Amelia Earhart dam in Medford overtops. Nevertheless, during community meetings the Envision process has discussed adding over 30,000 jobs or over 4,000 residents to the Fresh Pond area. This scale of development is a concern for both regular traffic congestion and emergency medical services and evacuation during flooding events.

    See http://envision.cambridgema.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/2017-09-20-Cambridge-Today-Pages-For-Web.pdf

    http://www.cambridgema.gov/CDD/Projects/Climate/climatechangeresilianceandadaptation.aspx

    1. Yes. I’m very concerned about the new flooding risks. I’m expecting some results from a study we commissioned on this in the next few weeks (after a couple of years of work). I am looking forward to rolling up my sleeves and understanding the great Cambridge work together with the work we have commissioned.

  32. Yes, we are at capacity now, can’t build or widen any more roads, so we will have to be more efficient. Expand public transportation by reducing fees (why did we privatize to the French?) so that it is cheaper to take the T than to drive.
    Also, we should have electric autonomous cars that are linked to a master traffic control program, fueled by solar panels arranged on a half-pipe over the roads forming a roof so the roads don’t get snowy or icy or salty.

    1. And bus lanes on the Access Roads to the Alewife T would improve service for rush hours. The Access Roads are each wider than the two lanes of Concord Avenue in Cambridge toward Huron Avenue. Buses and cars pass side by side, even with encroaching parked cars.

      Ask your Representative for bus lanes, the MASSDOT has to act as the access roads are theirs. 5 MBTA bus routes use the access roads, at least 15 buses if they were on schedule.

  33. We need a balanced approach. Zoning is the appropriate technique for reducing congestion. It should have been applied to stop the construction of a huge apartment block at the Fresh Pond roundabout that was already crowded especially at rush hours.

    On the other hand, zoning restricts the supply of housing and therefore raises the price of housing.

  34. Consider a toll to commute into the City by a vehicle during rush hours, as does London, but exclude commercial vehicle. It can be payable through an EZ pass type system with the cameras being able to recognize commercial plates, and can bill car owners directly who do not have an EZ pass.

    Promote Electric Vehicles to at least cut down on GHG and other pollution from fossil combustion engines.

  35. Consider a toll to commute into the City by vehicle during rush hours, as does London, but exclude commercial vehicles. It can be payable through an EZ pass type system with a camera system programmed to recognize commercial plates, and can bill commuting car owners directly who do not have an EZ pass.

    Promote Electric Vehicles to cut down on Green House Gases and other pollution from fossil combustion engines.

    Build the north-south rail link (NSRL) between North and South station.

  36. We need major investments to improve public transportation. We’ve been hearing reform before revenue for years. It’s time for some revenue. Build the North South Rail Link (stop South Station Expansion). Imagine if we could have trains every 15 min from Waltham to Boston. Build Urban Ring as subway line, not a series of buses. Part of the problem is that the T doesn’t have resources to run more buses on 71 and 73, plus other heavily used lines (66, 70, etc.). This is absurd; the demand is there. Watertown has seen massive development along Arsenal St. and Pleasant St. in recent years, but levels of service from the T haven’t changed. This is a policy failure. Make it more expensive to drive, either by higher gas tax or VMT fees or whatever.

    1. Agreed — reform is not so much the issue. But I still have concern not to go beyond the T’s management bandwidth. Right now I still want them focused on making the core pieces really work. In a few more years, we’ll be ready go be more ambitious, but the T does have a 2040 planning process underway to lay the ground work for the ambitious next steps.

  37. Dear Senator,

    The commuting situation in the metro area is troublesome with both cars and public transportation. I encourage decision making that considers city planning that heeds these concerns such as How this concern was raised prior to tthe Fresh Pond Development. I also support funding to improve public transportation and bike ways. I really appreciate the improvement on the Arlington Center bike path/pleasant st intersection. Please support making the T affordable and more efficient and more dependable. Thank you for your efforts to work improving and tending to transportation concerns.

    Sincerely,
    Shelley Schou

  38. Everyone agrees that there is more traffic on our roads than ever: rush hour from 6 AM until 8PM with one person in every car! Side streets crammed as drivers try to avoid Rte 2 and 60. More public transit desperately needed north/south and east/west. The only way across Belmont or to our neighboring towns is by car.

    Hindsight: Alewife garage was built to take two more levels, greatly needed, garage full by 9 AM. Reconstruction of intersection of 2 and 16 made it worse than original rotary- no one knew/obeyed rotary rules;.bring back the rotary/roundabout!
    The blocking of the extension of the Red Line; inadequate parking at the rail terminals: per ex. Littleton lot filled before 9 AM.

    Funding vital but where to begin? Thanks for your concern, Will!

    1. Yes thanks Will.
      And bus lanes on the Access Roads to the Alewife T would improve service for rush hours. The Access Roads are each wider than the two lanes of Concord Avenue in Cambridge toward Huron Avenue. Buses and cars pass side by side, even with encroaching parked cars.

      Ask your Representative for bus lanes, the MASSDOT has to act as the access roads are theirs. 5 MBTA bus routes use the access roads, at least 15 buses if they were on schedule.

    2. The problem with Alewife is the congestion all around it. Can’t really add another two levels of garage — wouldn’t be able to get the cars in and out. CTPS studied this in 2007-9 and that study led to the access improvements in the 2/16 intersection.

  39. Cambridge, Boston, and the state have opposed needed roadway expansions for the last 50 years, much in a misguided notion to make drivers suffer until they bicycle. More capacity has been needed ever since the 1970s when more and more women stopped staying at home and went out to work. Shortsighted politicians should have been pressing for the transportation voters want decades ago. Time to build and expand roads or choke the economy too.

    1. Then they were ahead of their time.

      It’s coming up on the time (well past the time?) that Massachusetts has to make its next decision on how to reduce its CO2 emissions. We’ve taken positive steps (or natural gas got cheap, I’m not sure which factor is dominant) on the electricity side, but the next big item is transportation. The solutions availabe I guess are a combination of electric cars and more energy efficent per capita vehicles (mass transit). Realistically, I’ll guess electric cars will be what the public mostly wants.

      But if we could get more people into trains and buses that’s preferable.
      You can find a coloured map, I think from Scripps, showing the carbon intensity of neighbourhoods. It very clearly shows a donut pattern around Boston with very intense emissions caused by people living in our suburbs. It confirms what Bloomburg says publicly about NYC having a relatively environmentally friendly lifestyle (for an American city at least). Well, the electric cars will help, but will leave us stuck on the next possible steps that should follow: reduced heating by having shared walls and reduced indirect emissions caused by excessive consumption (as we cart home more crap from best buy in our electric cars). And it does nothing much to solve the congestion problem because the extra lanes soon fill up from all the people who didn’t want to deal with the traffic before now coming out. Then in my neighbourhood (Brighton), where would these lanes go? The problem street is Washington Street. Are we going to push back or shrink the buildings neighbouring it in Brighton Center? Maybe run an elevated highway over the top? Wonderful.

      The trouble is cultural. I.e. it’s not our representatives it’s us. Another study I can’t find right now shows that as neighbourhoods gentrify they increase car usage and pollution thereby. Some Americans have come around to like the idea of city living, but still we want to have our cake and eat it too. Rather than switching to a NYC or London lifestyle, we keep the car(s) as a mandatory middle class accoutrement, like our cell phones, tvs, etc. Don’t know how this can be solved. Politicians can’t help. Ask Jimmy Carter how it goes to tell Americans to make sacrifices or grow up. No, I guess we’ll all continue to laugh at Donald Trump and the other climate change deniers (and perhaps suppose we’re off the hook since they’re the problem?) or watch movies where Al Gore tells Indian politicians to be part of the solution (again we seem somehow not the problem) while continuing to emit at rates 3 or 4 times what Indians or Chinese do per capita and watch more and more serious natural disasters unfold.

  40. Hi, I have free MBTA service thanks to my employer’s benefits. I have recently gone back to driving and paying for parking at work. Why? 1) The only way to access the nearest bus line is to drive and 2) my town recently started ticketing cars parked on side streets along the bus line. There is no other way to catch the bus that connects to the T that takes me to work. We need to provide more parking along transit lines.

  41. Biking from Belmont to Harvard Sq takes me 20 mins. Using the 73 bus takes at least 45, often more, just because of traffic. There is so much development and road repair going on that if there is one clear path, everyone goes on it at once. The congestion is slow and frustrating. I have to leave home very early to get to work on time and, geez, I just live in Belmont!

  42. Has anyone thought that not everybody can bike? I for one can’t. I’m sure there are many others like me who have bike phobia or a disability that keeps them away from a bike. Further, to arrive at work looking half decent, you can’t bike.

    Thanks for all you do Will.

    1. Advocating for the riding of bicycles is about making it possible to ride them, not about requiring it.
      There are some real benefits for everybody, not just the people who ride bicycles. Every person on a bike is one less person driving a car, parking a car, or using public transport, freeing up space for people who can’t or simply don’t want to ride bikes.
      I would like to pose the question to you where in the Boston area it is not possible to drive and park a car.

  43. Senator Will, this report tells a story that isn’t finished and my gut tells me it understates reality. However, I am thrilled that you and the commission are asking the tough questions and preparing us for the hard answers. I would love to see DOT’s brain trust ideas on how to mitigate traffic in the coming years. Where are the dedicated bus lanes on major highways that take 50 people at a time during rush hour. Where are the satellite parking areas in the suburbs. Where are dedicated bike lanes on highways (protected of course) and how come motorcycles can’t park for free in town? We are shrinking parking at new developments from a two car per unit to .7/unit. Can we do like London, no cars downtown? We are not a progressive culture in New England when it comes to basic stuff. We like it the old fashion way…Thanks!

  44. Thanks for caring about this. The growth in the Boston area seems unprecedented to me. The LACK of growth in public transportation as well. Boston will be an awful city in which to live unless we solve the public trans problems. I am especially disappointed that we don’t get more from developers. There should be more private/public partnerships to build a first class system. You want to build in Boston and add to the congestion? You will need to help pay. Why don’t we do this?

  45. Will, I have been worrying about this issue since the 1980s. Other than increased funding for the T, which is essential, efforts to limit auto use (particularly single-occupant auto use) have been very unpopular politically. Maybe there is a constituency for it now that we are at a crisis point. Imagine what we could do with all the space that is being used for storing cars! Good luck, sue

    1. Indeed. And all that space chewed up on roads by single occupancy vehicles.

      I entertain the hope that technology will allow us to make better use of our roads through more ride sharing. Uber-pool is taking us in that direction. But there may be too much convenience associated with riding in one’s own vehicle to make a big dent in the problem.

      One thing is for sure: We have to keep improving the MBTA!

  46. I am opposed to congestion charges in Boston except for ringing high density luxury buildings. Congestion charges on the highways are a tax on commuters who have to get to work at posted hours and don’t have the luxury of working at odd hours. The high density towers of luxury units are flooding the streets with single occupancy vehicles. While developers are charged with studies about parking, the added vehicles (private entrance valet parking for Winthrop Square) are adding unacceptable density on our horse and carriage streets.

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