Has traffic in the Boston area gotten worse since Labor Day? Not just you.
According to data provided to NBC10 Boston by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, travel times have increased on some of the area’s major highways.
Transportation officials overseeing the closure of the Orange Line are anticipating more workers on Massachusetts roads after Labor Day, when students return to class and people’s vacations end. On top of that, this year, some offices are back to work for the first time since the pandemic.
MassDOT Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver joined NBC10 Boston Monday morning to discuss the impact of closing the Orange and Green Lines for the first few days of the work week. Gulliver said it’s important for drivers to respect bus routes and turn lanes — which need to be open for shuttles and emergency vehicles. Gulliver said they wanted people to do everything they could to divert their free itinerary, and anyone on the road would be extra careful. Patience will be crucial in the coming weeks, he said, adding that they were fully prepared and that they would be keeping a close eye on traffic hotspots such as Sullivan Square. The biggest concern, he said, was that people would not divert, creating so much traffic that there would be an unmanageable gridlock.
For some major routes, the data confirmed their concerns.
Commuters take 15 minutes longer to enter Boston on Interstate 93 on the Wednesday morning after Labor Day than on the Wednesday before Labor Day. The drive from I-95 to the Zakim Bridge goes from about 35 minutes in the morning rush hour before Labor Day—still much slower than the 10 minutes when the road isn’t congested—to as long as 50 minutes after the holidays.
quality. Pike also slowed down during the same period. Rush hour on I-90 from I-95 to I-93 in Boston in the morning increased by about 12 minutes, from about 22 minutes to about 34 minutes. The reverse commute out of town, without any slowdowns on the Wednesday before Labour, has also suffered – drivers need an extra seven minutes to make the same trip a week later.
Some traffic did improve after the holiday weekend, including the evening rush hour on the toll road, albeit only slightly. South of Boston, I-93 was faster for both commuters after Labor Day.
And some decelerations remain the same, such as Route 1 from Revere along the Tobin Bridge into Charleston.
No matter when you travel, morning rush commuters to Boston spend nearly seven times as much time on the road as drivers before 5 a.m. or after 11 a.m., state data shows. During the evening peak, the hours in the afternoon almost double.
The data also illustrates the amount of traffic that drivers handle each day. No matter the day, driving times often double or triple during the morning rush hour on roads around the area — a graphic representation of the molasses-like situation some commuters have to deal with.
Michael Manville, a professor of urban planning at UCLA in Massachusetts, told the Boston Globe on Monday that “the idea of ’there’s a place to go, I’ll drive there’ in people’s minds” hasn’t changed during the pandemic. He is one of the advocates of congestion charging, in which drivers pay extra for using certain roads, increasing the economic incentive for drivers to find alternative ways to get to their destination.