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Mother's Day traffic madness, and how to best attack rush hour

Posted by Nichole Davis  May 10, 2013 01:19 PM

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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?

This news tidbit, if you hadn't heard, was put out by the DOT yesterday. Apparently, upon inspection of last year's toll statistics, the Friday before Mother's Day (that's today) was ranked as the heaviest traffic day on the Pike - over 363,000 tolls were paid on the Pike between the Weston Tolls and the New York state line. Crazy!

I placed a quick call this afternoon to DOT Press Secretary Sara Lavoie, and asked her, out of curiosity, if this was a new trend that was emerging. She confirmed that, indeed, the Friday before Mother's Day was the busiest traffic day on that stretch of the Mass Pike back in 2012, but it was only ranked #8 back in 2011.

So, what was the busiest day in 2011? That was the Friday before Columbus Day weekend - a day that we're much more used to seeing heavy delays. 363,607 transactions took place that day. In 2012, that same Friday ranked #2. So, not much of a fall, but still, a very interesting switch to consider. Also, Lavoie mentioned that the top 20 of the heaviest travel times back in 2012 were all Friday nights during warmer months - Mother's Day does fall into that category. Kind of interesting that Thanksgiving and Christmas didn't scratch the top of the list, considering working traffic on those days can make any seasoned reporter tear their hair out.

What's making people head home so early? Who knows. The decent forecast for this weekend? Spring fever? Lots of maternal guilt? Whatever it is, you can be sure to find some hefty delays. Focus on these stretches of popular roads for heaviest backups tonight (not hard and fast parameters, here - just a guide):

- 93 northbound from Boston to the Wilmington lane drop, then from Methuen to Windham, NH and by the Hooksett Tolls
- 128/95/93 in both directions between the 93 cloverleaf in Reading and the Braintree split
- Route 3 southbound from Braintree to the Derby Street lane drop, then approaching the Sagamore Bridge
- Route 25 eastbound approaching the Bourne Bridge
- Mass Pike westbound from the Allston/Brighton tolls ... well, pretty much in pockets to 84 in Sturbridge (with some delays possibly backing up to the Pru Tunnel)
- Expressway southbound end to end - northbound could see hefty backups, too
- Route 1 north from Sargent Street, Revere to the Lynnfield Tunnel

Of course, you can always check live traffic conditions, courtesy of boston.com, right here. Don't believe the sensors? Check out the MassDOT live cameras here.

Do you normally take a vacation on Mother's Day? Do you travel via car to head home to see your mother, if you do? What's the worst backup you've ever sat in on a Massachusetts highway? Let me know in the comments.
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I don't know about you, but running from Somerville to South Station doesn't exactly seem like my ideal commute.

However, there were some that tried it out this past Tuesday - along with inline skating (!!!), bikes, cars, and taking the T. It was all part of the "Rush Hour Race" put together by the LiveableStreets Alliance and the Somerville Bicycle Committee. Participants met up for a pre-commute breakfast in Davis Square, and then, at the height of rush hour, took off toward Davis Square in/on their preferred method of transport. The commute measures out at about six miles.

According to Jackie Douglas, the Executive Director of LiveableStreets, the premise of the race is to prove that hopping in the car isn't the only way you can get to and from where you have to go:

More and more people want transportation options and investing in them is critical. By investing in many different ways to get around, such as biking, walking and public transit, everyone’s commute can improve.”

Now, the T gets a lot - a LOT - of flack for messing up during rush hour. I get that. Being a former rush-hour T rider, I've shared the pain of #mbtafail. But, apparently, according to the results released after the race, the T proved to provide the fastest commute from Davis Square to Dewey Square by South Station. I mean, the fact that this rider didn't have to change lines was probably a significant factor in this, but that's saying something. Apparently the ride on the T took only 25 minutes end to end.

Our roller blader wasn't far behind - just about 28 minutes from start to finish. (Might be time for me to dig those out of my closet.) A half hour on the nose for the bicyclist, just about 40 minutes for the runner, and... ugh. Almost one hour for the driver stuck in the car. Driving around downtown is tough enough as it is, but in rush hour, this pretty much just confirms what we already know - it can be a drag.

If you're a Greater Boston commuter, what's your preferred method of getting around? Did the results of this race change your thoughts about how you commute?
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MBTA Matters

Hey, speaking of Red Line riders... you're going to be dealing with yet another diversion due to the Columbia Junction project this weekend (and next weekend too!).

Busing will be in place between North Quincy and JFK/UMass from the start of service Saturday to the end of service Sunday. The shuttles will stop at all stations. Service should be back to normal on Monday. No word on if there will be any diversions later on in the month or into June for this long-running project (of course, when I find out, I will let you know).

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com 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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