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Salem sees a significant increase in 2022 road traffic amid record-breaking October visitation

“If you’re coming to Salem, do it by train, ferry, or broom, but not by car.”

Salem, MA - 10/12/2022 People pass by Halloween decorations set up on the mall in Salem, Mass. on Oct. 12, 2022. Carlin Stiehl for The Boston Globe

More people are driving into Salem than last year, a new study says. The data comes amid fears of overcrowding and various traffic advisories from the city this October.

Navigation company Waze compared 2022 and 2021 traffic data ranging from Sept. 30 (the premiere of “Hocus Pocus 2”) to October 23, finding a 16.5% increase in crowds driving into the Witch City.

This follows last week’s stern warning from the city: don’t drive in. 

The city of Salem issued an Oct. 19 advisory urging weekend visitors to use public transportation or satellite parking in response to crowded streets and parking lots.

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“Visitors will save time, money, and the inevitable frustration experienced when people get stuck in the downtown traffic jams that occur when garages and lots are full and street closures go into effect,” the city wrote.

Salem

Among several alternatives, the city recommended the MBTA commuter rail, announcing that extra trains will be added to the schedule during the last two weekends of October. 

Salem had more than 500,000 visitors over the first 16 days of October this year, the city said, adding that there were nearly 80,000 visitors Oct. 15 alone — for reference, Gillette Stadium seats 65,000. The numbers are overwhelming business owners and locals as it draws closer to Halloween.

Officials have also responded to the crowds, adding that the historic city simply isn’t equipped to handle so many cars.

“While we love sharing our city with visitors and the world, we are a nearly 400-year-old city and we have roads that were built for horse and buggy, more than they were for the number of people who are trying to arrive here by car,” Mayor Kim Driscoll said in a Friday news conference

Other means of transportation suggested by the city include MBTA buses #450 from Wonderland and #459 from Logan Airport and the Salem Ferry between Boston’s Long Wharf and Salem Wharf. The city will also provide free satellite parking and shuttle service — while availability lasts. The city tracks closures on its Twitter account.

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“We like to say ‘if you’re coming to Salem, do it by train, ferry, or broom, but not by car,’” Driscoll said.

But the best way to enjoy the city, officials said, is to come prepared.

“If you are thinking about visiting Salem this October, do not show up on a whim. Have a plan and reservations.” Salem City Councilor Ty Hapworth wrote on Facebook. “Most importantly, for the sake of all of us (and for the love of all that is holy) do NOT bring your vehicle.”

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