Ahhh, winter. You have arrived. Not quite to this extent -- this photo from the Boston Globe archives from 1936 shows getting rid of the white stuff has never exactly been easy... but we're at the point where salt's caking our cars and roads, the parking spot savers are making a reappearance and it's time to put the French Toast alert on full power.
(Check out this article for more historical storm photos around the city of Boston.)FULL ENTRY
It's been long-standing knowledge that one of the worst traffic days of the year is the day before Thanksgiving. Everyone and their mother, dog, and best friend all hit the roads at the same time and clog things up to immense levels. In fact, according to AAA, there are going to be 43.4 million people on the highways nationwide this year -- so you can imagine that a significant portion of those are going to be messing things up here in New England.FULL ENTRY
I don't know about you, but I'm a happy woman whenever a duck boat parade is scheduled. No matter what the cause, it's always fun to see the entire city (and half of the New England area, it seems) squeezed onto the city's sidewalks to celebrate.
Now, the question is, how exactly are you going to get into the city to join us? And, well, when you're here, how can you ensure you won't get a ticket, get towed, or accidentally drive straight into the parade route? I've got some information that will hopefully help...FULL ENTRY
When Boston gets busy, we don't mess around.
Not only is some sort of baseball game happening today (I kid, I kid) ... but President Obama will be coming into town to speak about the Affordable Care Act. But hold on -- that's not all -- Drake will be performing tonight at the TD Garden. All of this, combined, should make for a crazy evening traffic-wise -- especially if the weather continues to be drizzly and messy. However, it could likely not be as bad as you would think. Let's tackle these events one by one:
While the countdown most people have been talking about is the one for the government shutdown, Western Massachusetts residents who are frequent users of the Mass Pike are dreading another upcoming date: October 15th.
That's the date tolls will begin to be collected between Exits 1 and 6 -- it will now cost you $1.75 to travel between 291 and the New York state line, and $5.85 to travel the entire length of the Pike. Don't forget, though -- there's a special step you have to take if you're a Western Massachusetts resident who already uses EZ-Pass.FULL ENTRY
Voting for the MBTA's New Perspectives MBTA Map Re-design contest is well underway. As a self-described transit nerd, of course this is something that's right up my alley (and, if you're reading this blog, I'm assuming it's something that probably interests you too).
If you're not familiar with what the contest is all about, essentially the T put the call out to designers and artists (as well as other transit nerds!) to put their own spin on the well-known T map. There were dozens of entries, but a panel has narrowed it down to just a few for the public to choose from.
Here's my thoughts on the top six entries...FULL ENTRY
In the words of a very popular camel, "Uh-oh. Guess what day it is?!"
(Technically, yes, it is "hump day", but that's not what I'm going for here.)
Yes, it's that time of year again - some call it "Allston Christmas", some call it the "student exodus" ... whatever your name for it, the next week or so is going to bring a flood of new arrivals to the city. If you're one of them and have come to this blog for commuting advice, welcome and thanks for stopping by! If there's one thing you need to keep in mind, please remember this:
Do not, under any circumstances (unless being chased by raptors, and even then), bring your moving truck on the river roads. And, if you do, follow the signs! There's an example in the photo above. If you see one of these, DO NOT KEEP GOING. Otherwise, you will likely end up like one of these unfortunate souls and that's just not fun for anyone involved. (Check out the gallery - I think the Weinermobile could have made it without help.)
For more tips, here's the gallery I put together for last year's move-in that provides a general overview of the ins and outs of getting around the city. If you have any other questions, leave them in the comments and I'll be sure to answer them!FULL ENTRY
There's more and more of those VMS boards popping up on area highways - VMS meaning "Variable Message Signs":
My pal Emil wrote to me recently with an inquiry about the content on these boards:
"I remember a while ago, there was a big stink about "GO SOX" and "GO PATS" showing up on VMS boards on the Pike, and how the boards should only be used to motorist info. Now, I'm seeing them with messages reminding me to renew my registration, and more recently, telling me that fireworks are illegal, and I'm subject to arrest or a fine. A couple of years ago, when they were having that beetle problem in Worcester, they said we shouldn't move firewood. If they're going to put these things up, then I'm OK with "GO BRUINS!" or other such messages.
I kind of question ones like "OUI: Over the limit, under arrest/Use designated driver". I don't think I know anyone who *doesn't* know that driving under the influence is a crime, and I honestly don't think that seeing that message on the highway will make someone think "I should get Charlie to drive, so I can get plastered!" The same goes for the warnings about texting and driving. Most reasonable people know they shouldn't be doing that, regardless of whether they still do it anyway.
Anyway, would you be interested in quizzing your contacts at MassDOT about what is and isn't appropriate for messages on VMS boards, and why I'm seeing more messages that aren't related to motorist info?"
What a response I got from my last entry about the Longfellow Bridge! Thanks for all your input - and thank you to all of those who wrote in with your transportation-related questions. I've got feelers out on many of them and am working to get you answers as fast as possible. If you're curious about something transportation related around the city, drop me a line at email@example.com. Can't wait to hear from you.
By the way, if you're looking for the VMS story, I'm still putting some finishing touches on it - look for it to be published by the end of the week! Here's some other tidbits for you until then...
Katerina from Cambridge wrote in:
My commute each day takes me down Nashua Street by Spaulding Rehab and the county Jail. For the past few weeks it's been really difficult to get through there because the road is constantly being torn up. You never know when the work is going to be taking place which is equally annoying. Traffic's being rerouted a lot and the delays can be long at times. Do you know if this is going to take too much longer?FULL ENTRY
So tonight I took a ride over the Longfellow Bridge on my way home from work. It's going to be the last time for a while that I'll be able to scoot over to Cambridge that way, as they'll be shutting down Cambridge-bound traffic starting Saturday. For up to three years.FULL ENTRY
A quick note re: Cape Cod traffic this past weekend... honestly, in the past three years that I've been working as a traffic reporter here in the Boston area, I've never seen it quite this bad over the July 4th weekend. Of course, I've had plenty of people ask why it was so...
The major thing to remember is that the July 4th weekend is always tough for travel. It ranks up there as one of the top five worst travel times of the year. No matter what time you leave, which direction you're going, it's still going to be tough.
This year, the holiday being a Thursday didn't help, because many just took it upon themselves to take off for a four day vacation. While that's always fun to do, you not only had the extra traffic on-Cape (and in Maine along the coast, and in New Hampshire's Lakes Region), but combine that with vacationers that have been deciding to get away since the kids have left school for the summer... it's a recipe for traffic disaster.FULL ENTRY
Ah, welcome to one of the busiest travel days of the year - the day before July 4th.
Many would think, "Why is the day before the holiday busiest?" Lots of people are taking off and they want to beat the traffic - but, of course, they're going to be the traffic themselves, as everyone is going at the same time. There won't be as many people this year, however. The International Business Times reports that, according to AAA, only 40.8 million people will be hopping in their cars and heading out of town (to a destination at least 50 miles away). Now, you might wonder, why is that an "only"? That number's down at least one percent from this past year for a variety of reasons - money and time, namely.
Either way, it's going to feel like all 40 million are on the road with you at once for the next few days at times. Expect gridlock through this afternoon on all of your major highways heading out of the city to the usual vacation spots.FULL ENTRY
There's been word all week about the DOT closing down two popular ramps to the O'Neill Tunnel and Zakim Bridge northbound for work over the weekend. However, the wet weather has foiled the plans, and it looks like that won't be happening.
Michael Verseckes of the DOT says the work was going to be taking place on the ramps from Haymarket Square and the Sumner Tunnel. They were set to be closed at 8:00 PM tonight and 10:00 PM tomorrow night. There's been no word as to when the work will be rescheduled for, but of course, when I find out, I'll pass it on.
Keep in mind, though - there's more in the way of closures coming up in the next few days...FULL ENTRY
We start today's entry with a question from Sean in Chelsea:
"I saw your post about the Chelsea Street bridge, and I wonder if you could find out what the deal is on the Rte 99 bridge just outside Sullivan Square. I go over it every day and I've been tracking the "progress" or lack thereof for years. Back in November of 2010 is when the traffic was first reduced to 2 lanes from 4 and routed over the east 2 lanes of the bridge. They've had complete access to the other 2 lanes for over 2 1/2 years and they are not done yet. Best guess it looks like it could be 3 full years to do 1/2 of the work.
Again, they have complete access to that side of the bridge. What the hell is taking so long? They got the Chelsea Street bridge complete (or nearly complete) with 6 months of uninterrupted access. Is it really going to take 6 years or more to compete this work?"FULL ENTRY
Commuters in Leominster are about to be a little more inconvenienced.
If you've been utilizing the shuttle service provided by the Montachusett Regional Transit Authority that runs from the Mall at Whitney Field to the North Leominster Intermodal Transportation Center, we're now learning that's not going to be an option come July 1st. What's going on?FULL ENTRY
UPDATE (10:55 AM): State police are reopening the Mass Pike in both directions as I type. Should be completely opened by about 11:15. Heavy delays remain in place, so give yourself lots of extra time. Storrow Drive is going to be gridlocked, too, on the westbound side because of that lane closure at the Hatch Shell for the Children's Hospital Walk.
... at least downtown. Just passing it along that, if you were planning on taking the Pike through the Prudential Tunnel this morning, it's not going to happen.
State police have shut down the tunnel in both directions for a variety of reasons. Their Twitter account cites safety reasons - it's been pitch black in there since early this morning and the ventilation systems are down too. Plus, NStar crews likely have to access the area to get to the Scotia Street substation where this snafu started.
The Department of Transportation has reported that traffic eastbound is being detoured at Exit 18 (Allston Brighton tolls). Westbound traffic will be detoured coming out of the Ted Williams onto the Expressway southbound. Storrow Drive is going to be your best bet for an alternate but keep in mind that the right lane westbound will be closed through most of the morning into the afternoon by the Hatch Shell due to an event there.
So far there is no estimated time of reopening, but NStar has reported that the lights will hopefully be back on between 12-1 this afternoon. I'll let you know when it does.
Stephen, a reader of the blog, wrote in to me recently. He said, in part:
"... I saw that the Mass DOT said the Chelsea Street bridge will be closed weeknights until July 1st. While this may not seem to be a big thing it is for the thousand of us that work at Logan Airport. The employee garage sits just across from this bridge and when the bridge is closed it takes a 10 minute bus ride and turns it into a 20 to 30 minute bus ride and that’s each way.
The bridge was completed (supposedly) last May at I believe the cost of over $200 million dollars to the taxpayers and there has hardly been a week in this past year that it hasn’t been closed at night for something. Do you think you could find out why this bridge never seems to be working properly and when it will finally be open and functioning as designed and paid for with our money?"FULL ENTRY
So you're sitting on the Green Line, for example, at Copley Station. Your phone's not showing any sign of service, as you're used to in that stretch of tunnel. All of a sudden, you hear what you think is a ringtone. Really? Underground? Here?
Sure enough, the train starts going, and someone starts up a loud conversation. (Which, as any courteous T rider knows, is just downright rude, but that's for the Courtesy Critters to determine.) Wait a minute. There's cell phone service here? Why are they having a conversation and I'm stuck here, devoid of connectivity (as pleasant as that may be at the time)?FULL ENTRY
While those who care more about the weather for Memorial Day weekend wrung their hands and were worried about busted forecasts, we on the traffic side of things were sure of one thing: traffic was going to be a mess. And it was.FULL ENTRY
Kicking off the blog this afternoon, check out this crazy crash on 128/95 southbound in Dedham:
Pardon the fuzzy obvious-cell-phone-from-my-copter-monitor shot, but I'm in here and not out there... it's taking place as I'm polishing up today's entry. What a mess! Said tractor-trailer reportedly was driving southbound on 128/95 around Route 109 in Dedham when the driver hit a box truck, causing the tractor-trailer to swerve and jack-knife.
The road has been shut down twice already today and I'm assuming this will take some time to clear. So far we're seeing heavy delays from Route 2 in Lexington to the crash scene. That's over twenty miles! Bad news for a Friday commute - which is tough enough as it is. Avoid if you're catching this before you leave the office.FULL ENTRY
Here in the traffic operations center, we usually see the busiest traffic days around major holidays - not that Mother's Day isn't one, we all love our moms - but more like Thanksgiving, Columbus Day, Memorial Day, etc. So upon reading the news that today could possibly be the busiest traffic day of the year, some of us were a little perplexed.
Mother's Day? Really?FULL ENTRY
It would be difficult to argue that traffic here in Boston, at times, is anything but mind-numbingly horrible. Think about it - especially in the summer, on a Friday evening ... a commute that normally takes you half an hour can jam up to easily two or three hours.
Every so often, a survey comes out comparing our traffic to other cities - and, this time, a survey by INRIX, a traffic information group, has put us in the top ten (but just barely!).FULL ENTRY
If you happened to get on the commuter rail in Worcester this morning - namely, the 6:20 am train - you might have noticed you got to Boston a lot faster than you normally do ... and with just one other stop.
Today was the first run of express service between Worcester and Boston for both the morning and afternoon commutes. It's somewhat limited at this point, but transportation officials say they're hopeful it can expand in the future to help passengers travel more quickly between the state's largest cities - which could be beneficial on many levels.FULL ENTRY
You may have noticed I haven't blogged since Marathon Monday. Where does one begin with the past week and a half we've had in this city? I'm sitting here at my keyboard trying to answer that question, and I honestly don't know.
I can tell you that, as both a city resident and a member of the media, it's been hectic on many levels on my end. It's nice to finally see life starting to ease back into some semblance of normalcy - which includes talking with you about transportation. There's a little bit of everything in today's entry as we get back into the swing of things. I can only hope that you and yours are well and coping as best as possible after the terrible events at the marathon. For those reading from out of town - thank you for all of your positive energy and love. #bostonstrong
Now, let's talk about some closures we've got coming up over the next few days... starting with major shutdowns through a chunk of Cambridge today. Regular construction lists will come back starting up next week, by the way.FULL ENTRY
Ahhh, Marathon Monday. For many, it's a chance to seize the day, power through 26.2 miles and have bragging rights for the rest of their lives. For others, it's a chance to set up shop along the marathon route, eat a bunch of tasty food and have some drinks, rest, and relax. Others may use the day to check out Patriot's Day activities set up around Eastern Massachusetts. (It's looking to be a gorgeous day for re-enactments, should the forecast hold.)
However, it's one of the biggest days for traffic reporters here in Boston. We'll be glued to cameras and map sensors trying to get you to where you have to go among the sea of road closures and public transit diversions that will inevitably be set up. (Anyone want to bring us some cheeseburgers or something?) It's going to be a doozy of a travel day, that's for sure. (By the way, if you're new to the area, don't forget to check out the primer I put together last Marathon Monday to help you get around.)FULL ENTRY