The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives in many ways, but one you may not have thought about is how it has changed where and when you will experience the worst traffic while driving.
The State House News Service (SHNS) reported Wednesday that freeway administrator Jonathan Gulliver said that while traffic volume is back to around 2019 levels, congestion patterns on Massachusetts highways have changed.
SHNS reported that while most routes show slightly to significantly faster travel, some road sections have increased congestion after COVID at certain times of the day.
The most confusing change occurred on I-93 between the Braintree split and Mass. Avenue Connector, reported SHNS.
In the evening, it now takes three minutes longer to drive that stretch northbound on an average weekday than it did on an average weekday in 2019, which means that travel time has increased by 20%.
But traveling between the same points in the same direction in the morning is more than three minutes faster from 2022.
Driving the same stretch of road southbound in the morning now takes almost four minutes more than it did three years ago, reflecting a 30% increase in traffic. The southbound change of the evening is less extreme with just a 30-second rise.
The Mass. Turnpike has become less congested pretty much everywhere, SHNS reported. Morning and evening trips in both directions between I-95 and I-93 are now 9% to 24% faster than in 2019.
Commuters living in the North Shore and Merrimack Valley now have a much better morning commute to Boston, SHNS reported. The travel time between Route 3 and Pike is six minutes shorter in the morning than they were three years ago, and the travel time northbound on I-95 from I-93 in Canton to Pike is down by 6.7 minutes.
“People choose to travel differently,” Gulliver told the Department of Transportation board Wednesday.
“… These traditional commuter hours on pretty much every road will usually be the busiest of the day. But what we see here … is that people are spreading their journeys so that even the full amounts approach and sometimes exceed [pre-pandemic]these peaks … are not as bad as they were in previous years. “
Nevertheless, SHNS reported, the number of passengers on MBTA buses and trains has still dropped significantly from pre-pandemic levels. In February, MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said that the number of passengers on T’s central metro and trolley lines was still at 45% of the February 2019 levels.
Congestion on T has also changed, SHNS reported. Several riders take trains and buses in the middle of the day, Poftak said, with an apparent but less intense morning rush hour.
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