Inside Boston's Changing Commute: How Traffic's Changed at Rush Hour and More

"The Turnpike was the first roadway to drop off during the pandemic, and it was the last one to really recover," Massachusetts Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver said

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Traffic is back in Boston, alright.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation says 95% of all drivers are now on the roads, which means that on any given day there are roughly 750,000 people commuting into the city.



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But since the pandemic, Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver said, we're seeing shifts in when, where and who is commuting.

"Mondays are about the lightest days. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are by far the heaviest. Friday morning is very light," Gulliver said.

Mark Van Der Hyde is one of the many people who are now able to work from home on the bookends of the weekend. But when he does have to drive into to Boston from Dracut mid-week, he expects bumper-to-bumper traffic.

"I guess I'm just resigned to the fact that we're sitting in traffic for like one to two hours in the morning," Van Der Hyde said.

The Hub is the second most congested city in the United States and the fourth worldwide, according to INRIX, a company that analyzes traffic data around the world. Only drivers in London (156 hours), Chicago (155) and Paris (138) lost more hours in traffic in 2022.

On MassDOT's Dashboard, the average time for someone like Mark to come down Interstate 93 on a Monday morning at 8 a.m. is 54 minutes. But on a Tuesday, it's 67 minutes.

It's even worse if you're heading in from the South Shore. The average on the Expressway on Mondays at 8 a.m. is 56 minutes, but at the same time on Wednesdays, you're crawling in at 83 minutes.

Even the actual rush hours have changed.

Take Route 3 north from Weymouth. In 2019, it would often peak at 5 a.m. and stay steady until around 9 a.m. At the same time last November, the duration of the worst traffic was cut in half, from 5 a.m. until 7 a.m.

But that's the same number of cars in a shorter span of time, which equals more brake lights.

What has also changed is where people are commuting from.

"The Turnpike was the first roadway to drop off during the pandemic, and it was the last one to really recover," Gulliver said.

He noted that the number of cars on the Mass. Pike heading into Boston dropped anywhere from 17 to 20%, depending on the day, last year compared to 2019.

"The people coming in from the west generally have types of jobs where they have those opportunities where they can work remotely," Gulliver said.

A new study has calculated just how much time working from home saves remote workers, and what people are doing with their new free time.

That helps drivers on I-95 south from the Mass. Pike to Route 3, where the commute times are down 31%. But the time it takes to make the commute on the Expressway from the Braintree split to Mass. Ave. has increased by nearly 30%.

The new breed of flexible workers also means that sometimes you'll run into traffic in the middle of the day.

"They now work from home in the morning and they come into the office in the afternoon. So they're coming in midday and your midday trip is a little bit busier than it used to be," Gulliver said.

Small business owner Art DiGioia watches NBC10 Boston every morning to decide how he'll be tackling his day.

"Basically, I take a look at what's happening and where I need to be," he said.

MassDOT Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver joined NBC10 Boston Monday morning to talk the impact of the Orange and Green line closures during the first few days of this workweek. Gulliver said it will be very important for drivers to respect bus routes and turning lanes -- which need to be open for shuttle buses and emergency vehicles. Gulliver said they're hoping people do what they can to move their discretionary trips, and anyone on the road pays extra attention. Patience is going to be critical over the next few weeks, he said, while adding that they are well prepared and they will keep a close eye on traffic hot spots like Sullivan Square. He said the biggest concern is that people don't divert, causing so much traffic that there's an unmanageable gridlock.

So if there's a crash that will upend his commute, he'll consider rescheduling a meeting or just take it virtually.

"My travel time today was going from my bedroom into the kitchen," DiGioia joked.

The pandemic also prompted companies to go fully remote. For workers like Kara Sassone, it means she has put the stress of a commute in the rearview mirror.

"A simple crash, a fender bender can really derail any schedule," she said.

She's gone from rushing to make sure she could pick up her children on time to a new kind of commute: walking them to school.

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