Boston’s long commutes aren’t going away

SAYONARA: The FJ Cruiser rides into the sunset with an Ultimate Edition version, its heritage a combination of Toyota’s Land Cruiser, 4Runner, and 4x4 compact pickups.
SAYONARA: The FJ Cruiser rides into the sunset with an Ultimate Edition version, its heritage a combination of Toyota’s Land Cruiser, 4Runner, and 4x4 compact pickups. –PHOTO: TOYOTA

The topic today is clogged arteries—not in our bodies but on our roads. However, it’s fair to say the heavy traffic on our roads is leading to high blood pressure for many local drivers who are spending way too much time commuting.

Heavy traffic is something I normally go out of my way to avoid, but I’ve been immersed in it for the past month, commuting from Newburyport to Brighton and Belmont.

Being tossed into this glut of cars is frustrating. Rush hour in Boston now seems to be about four hours in the morning and five in the afternoon.


It made me wonder just how many cars are on our roads. The number, it turns out, was 247.9 million in the second quarter of 2013, but more on that later.

There have been news reports related to that number, discussing either why it’s rising or why it shouldn’t be.

One of those stories is about monthly auto sales and the projected SAAR, the Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate of auto sales, which also represents the number of new cars going onto the road.

That number will be more than 15 million new vehicles this year.

Other stories tell us how high gas prices are changing our driving habits and keeping cars off the road. A look at our roads makes you wonder if that’s really the case.

Still others talk about how teenagers are content to be passengers and aren’t eager to get their drivers’ licenses. (Who says today’s kids aren’t smart? Wouldn’t you rather be in a passenger seat, reading, listening to music or the radio, or going online than driving?)

Then there was the recent report by GPS maker TomTom, which ranked the Top 10 worst traffic cities, a list that Boston finally has made.


TomTom measures traffic in 169 US cities. Boston this year climbed from No. 21 to No. 9 on the list—a not-so-subtle reminder that the Big Dig hasn’t done much, if anything, to improve traffic; instead, it just put a chunk of it underground and out of sight.

Experian, an Illinois company that provides a suite of automotive database information, came up with a report that said the total number of vehicles on our roads—that 247.9 million—is the highest number since 2008.

Experian released the number in its VIO (Vehicles in Operation) Report.

With the average age of vehicles on the road at 10.9 years, and likely growing, things aren’t about to get better. That 10.9 figure is up almost a full year from the 2009 figure, meaning fewer cars are going to the scrap heap.

The Experian report had some interesting breakdowns, though none of them will make our commutes easier.

Nationally, full-size pickup trucks are the largest segment of the VIO at 14.9 percent, followed by mid-size cars (11.9 percent) and economy cars (9.1 percent).

In the Northeast, as most local commuters will confirm, entry level crossover utility vehicles (small SUVs) are the top segment with 14 percent. Those full-size pickups? They ranked only No. 5 here at 7.8 percent of the on-road population.

Overall, GM has the highest share of the national VIO at 26.6 percent, followed by Ford (18.9), Toyota (12.6), and Chrysler (12.5).

Whatever you’re driving, happy commuting.

Farewell, FJ Cruiser

Longtime readers of this column know I’m a fan of out-of-the-ordinary vehicles. An El Camino (actually a GMC Caballero) graces my driveway. It replaced a turbocharged Subaru Baja. They’ve both been long discontinued, along with 10 other cars I’d have liked to own: a Chevy Avalanche pickup, Ford Ranger, Pontiac G8, Chevy HHR, Dodge Magnum, Mitsubishi Eclipse (a Mrs. G favorite), Lexus SC430, Toyota Solara, Honda S2000, and Volvo C70.


Joining that list after this year is the Toyota FJ Cruiser.

Last week, Toyota showed a 2014 FJ Cruiser Ultimate Edition at the SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) Show in Las Vegas.

Toyota’s Racing Development (TRD) team provided an off-road suspension for the final FJ, which should become a collector’s item with only 2,500 being built.

Of course, with cars now lasting into a second decade, we’ll be seeing them for a while.

And the Winner Is… annually presents its Shoppers’ Choice Award at the Detroit Auto Show. The award is selected by visitors who vote on the Facebook page through Dec. 6.

The 10 finalists were selected by traffic on the website.

Should you care to vote, here’s this year’s list (in alphabetical order): Chevrolet Camaro, Chevrolet Silverado, Ford F-150, Ford Mustang, Honda Accord, Honda Civic, Honda CR-V, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, Ram 1500.

Last year’s winner was the Dodge Challenger.

Loading Comments...