The car did not fare well in yesterday’s Boston-to-Somerville Rush Hour Challenge

The experience could be an early warning of much worse traffic conditions to come.
The experience could be an early warning of much worse traffic conditions to come. –Craig F. Walker / Globe staff photo

As the driver in Tuesday’s Rush Hour Challenge, Mark Gravallese was tasked with driving his Toyota Corolla in a race against three types of cyclists, one T rider and two pedestrians from downtown Boston to Davis Square in Somerville.

Gravallese came in sixth place, only beating the participant who was walking. The event was organized by the bicycle advocacy group MassBike to raise awareness of the challenges that all modes of transportation endure during rush hour gridlock.

Lauren LeClaire, communications coordinator for MassBike, said the electric pedal assist bike rider won the race, followed by the regular bike rider, the Hubway rider, the runner, the MBTA user, the driver (Gravallese) and the walker.


Gravallese said his race, which took him from MassDOT’s headquarters at 10 Park Plaza to Redbones restaurant in Somerville’s Davis Square, was “interesting’’ and that it took him between 35 to 40 minutes to reach the finish line at Redbones.

This is the second year in a row that Gravallese has participated in the Rush Hour Challenge. He drove a car last year too.

Gravallese told that the race revealed some important lessons for transportation officials about how different types of commuters navigate the city during the busiest times.

“The main takeaway is our city is growing, and fast, and is on the cutting edge of transportation design so we have to make sure we’re accommodating all modes of transportation,’’ he said.

Gravallese is a manager of public infrastructure at transportation engineering firm Howard Stein Hudson. He says he thinks Boston transportation and policy officials are making a lot of correct moves and praised Boston for committing to Vision Zero, a pledge to eliminate fatalities and serious injuries from traffic crashes by 2030.

“We have the right polices in place and the right tools at hand, now it’s about implementing and putting those tools into action,’’ he said.


Gravallese said he normally takes the commuter rail to work. The Rush Hour Challenge can teach users of different transportation modes to appreciate how other commuters get around the city.

“There’s no magic bullet for everyone,’’ he said. “An event like this brings everyone together to understand why certain people have their preferences for their mode and opens up their eyes to other modes and why they’re important.’’

Meanwhile, a new report from the non-profit business group A Better City predicts Boston will see an increase of 80,000 cars, trucks and tractor trailers by 2030, and a nearly 5 percent increase in highway usage from 2010.

The report also indicates that traffic slows down significantly during the busiest travel times, between 7 and 9 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. During these times, the fastest drivers in the area average 23.1 miles per hour in the I-93 northbound lanes and the Mass. Pike westbound. The slowest average speed during these times is 10.3 mph on US-3 northbound.

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