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Transportation tidbits, including a skyrocketing price tag

Posted by Nichole Davis  July 11, 2012 11:08 PM

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Hello again! Back in the blogging saddle (in front of the fan, despite the nice night) with a few headlines from the past week... but quickly, I wanted to pass along a response I got from the MBTA about the shortage of CharlieCards that a reader had noticed in this entry.

I asked if the T had an idea as to when the cards would be re-stocked in stations. Joshua Robin, spokesperson for the T, told me:

We sometimes experience short, temporary outages of CharlieCards stations – especially during busy holiday weeks like last week. When we are alerted by staff of an outage, cards are restocked as quickly as possible. We have a large quantity of cards in reserve and receive regular shipments. In late June we had 96,000 cards delivered. More than 48,000 additional cards will be delivered on July 20th.

So, be on the lookout for more cards coming soon. If you could, drop a line via email or in the comments and let me know if you still run into problems trying to acquire cards at any station.

And now, on to the news!

Here's some headlines...

The final tally on the Big Dig cost just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

Almost ten years ago, officials said the cost of the project would start to wrap up around $15 billion. That's turned out to be far from the truth, according to a new set of numbers released by state administrators this week.

The Globe's Eric Moskowitz reports that the Big Dig project has run the city and state almost $24 billion (including interest!) Here's a breakdown of some of the stats:

The highway-tunnel work cost $14.5 billion, with the state using $7 billion in federal aid and borrowing the rest. Add interest and the total figure shouldered by state and federal taxes and tolls will be $21 billion by the time the final bond is paid off in 2038, Dana Levenson, chief financial officer for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, told a legislative committee Tuesday.

Oh, but wait! There's more!

Many of the transit projects taken on as of late, including the Silver Line and commuter rail extensions to Newburyport, Plymouth and other areas, are also being lumped into the final sum. That tacks on $3.3 billion more ... even before the $1+ billion extension of the Green Line that's about to get underway. Oof. Full article here.
So, according to a new study by TomTom, it seems traffic could be a lot worse around here. (I'm sure you'd love to hear that while sitting for an hour on the Expressway southbound or Storrow Drive eastbound at about 5:30 p.m.)

The study says Boston now ranks 19th on a list of North American cities that suffer terrible traffic gridlock. Los Angeles (not surprisingly) takes the top spot, while Vancouver, Miami, Seattle and Tampa round out the top five.

Here's some of the numbers, from the article:

On average, Boston commutes take 16 percent longer than they would if traffic were flowing freely — like in the middle of the night. In the evening rush, however, Boston commutes take 35 percent more time than they do when everything is moving well, according to the TomTom report. By comparison, Los Angeles commutes take an average of 33 percent longer than they would in free-flowing traffic and a whopping 77 percent longer during evening rush hour.

Apparently Bostonians with an average of 30 minutes for a commute find themselves held up for 55 hours per year. That's a lot of gas burned, snacks eaten, brake pads worn out, and obscenities hollered (with or without hand gestures to accompany them). Full article here.

I know we don't have traffic on a California level, for sure ... but, with all the construction and lane reductions and this and that as of late, I can see how it would be hard to really believe this. Hopefully, once some of this road work wraps up, we'll be able to revel in the fact that our gridlock apparently isn't as bad as it could be.

(As for how well us Massachusetts drivers... drive? We'll leave that for another day.) ;)

Fans of the Amtrak Downeaster service will be pleased to know they've helped set a record.

Downeaster officials say the fiscal year wrapped up with over 528,000 passengers - which is the most they've ever had for one year in their entire history. New figures show ridership continues to grow, although higher-ups at Amtrak say they don't know exactly why.

Amtrak continues to see a boost in ridership across all lines - the company carried a total of 30 million passengers nationwide last year, which was another record set for them. Surely, the rising cost of car ownership and gas is making the idea of riding the train to work or for vacation a little more appealing.

The Downeaster runs service from North Station in Boston to Portland, Maine several times daily, with many stops in between. Don't forget that service will soon be extending to Brunswick and Freeport, so if you're in the mood for some outlet shopping or to check out the old Navy base, that may be an option for you come later this year. Full article here.

I'll be back on Friday with your usual construction and MBTA closure roundup. Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments, especially on this Big Dig price tag. Did you expect that it was going to get this big? What do you think, if anything, should -- or CAN -- be done? (Also, do you really think Boston's only 19th in the country for gridlock?)

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Nichole Davis is a Boston-based traffic reporter and news anchor. She’s been seen and heard on television and radio airwaves across New England since 2003, providing commuters with all the More »

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