How to make blood boil: Take a busy, three-lane roadway in the heart of Back Bay and Beacon Hill. Mix in parked cars and pedestrians who block one of those lanes on seemingly random days. Let them park there for several hours. Voila! You've got the perfect recipe for drivers marinated in rage.
Tipster Caleb Winder says that's just the "ill-conceived" scenario the Department of Conservation and Recreation concocts each spring and summer by allowing cars to park on Storrow Drive during events held on the Esplanade.
"This practice causes significant and lengthy traffic jams," Winder writes in a letter to DCR that he shared with GlobeWatch.
Last fall, Winder said, he and his family, along with thousands of others, "sat at a standstill for 30 minutes on the Leverett Connector and passing the Hatch Shell on Storrow Drive. And this was by no means the first time I have sat in a traffic jam caused by this practice. This policy is an unnecessary inconvenience to the many motorists who use Storrow Drive, Leverett Circle, and adjacent roadways," he writes.
"Why are people allowed to park on this busy roadway? The MBTA has two stations within just a few blocks of the footbridges flanking the Hatch Shell - Charles Street Station on the Red Line and Arlington Street Station on the Green Line. And even if people must drive rather than use the MBTA, there are several parking garages in the immediate area, including the Boston Common Garage," Winder writes.
"As a community, we are supposed to be encouraging the use of public transportation, not rewarding excess fuel consumption at the expense of others. The traffic delays add as much as 20-30 minutes to drivers' commutes, to say nothing about the environmental impact of the excessive idling and stop-and-go traffic. Further, the extra police detail required to support this policy would surely be better applied to the nearly $1 billion backlog of maintenance needed to restore and improve our parks."
Winder says he's still waiting to hear from the DCR.
The state responds
Allowing cars to park on the westbound side of Storrow Drive is "a fairly longstanding practice dating back 20 or 25 years," said Lisa Capone, a department spokeswoman. The practice is seasonal, running from mid-May to mid-October, and coincides with outdoor concerts and other events at the Hatch Shell.
Vehicles are permitted to park in the travel lane closest to the river from Leverett Circle to the Arthur Fiedler Footbridge, and there is room for 60 to 70 vehicles, she said. Vehicles may park 30 to 60 minutes before an event and must leave 30 minutes after, she said. During very large events, such as the July Fourth celebration, visitors are allowed to park from Leverett Circle to the Mass. Ave. Bridge, she said.
Capone says the parking is done not for convenience, but because it is "preferable for public safety."
The cars create a barrier between the road for park users, and the practice prevents drivers from dropping passengers off along Storrow Drive. State Police or DCR park rangers are on hand to direct traffic while a blinking yellow sign cautions drivers to keep to two lanes.
The department is looking into putting up a sign at Leverett Circle this year to warn motorists of the lane closure so they can reroute if they want, she said.
The first event of this season is slated for Saturday, when EarthFest 2008, a six-hour concert that regularly attracts about 100,000 people, takes place from noon to 6:30 p.m.
WHO'S IN CHARGE
Rick Sullivan, commissioner
Department of Conservation and Recreation
251 Causeway St., Suite 600
Boston, MA 02114-2104