Weekly Wonder: Rush-hour traffic in Greater Boston

(Shilin Wang/Creative Commons)

By Matt Niksa
BU News Service 

BOSTON — Boston drivers caught in the morning and/or evening rush-hour gridlock may think that Greater Boston has some of the worst traffic in the U.S. A report on worldwide rush-hour traffic published last month now supports that argument with data.

The average Greater Boston driver spent 164 hours in rush-hour traffic in 2018, according to a report from INRIX, a transportation analytics firm that publishes annual rankings of congestion in more than 200 cities across 38 countries. Rush-hour traffic cost each Greater Boston driver up to $2,291 in lost productivity and wasted fuel last year, INRIX’s analysis found. Both numbers were highest in the country, while the second-most congested U.S. city was Washington, D.C., with 155 hours and $2,161.

Greater Boston includes the municipality of Boston and 43 other cities and towns in the eastern part of Massachusetts. The total cost of congestion in Greater Boston equaled $4.1 billion in 2018, the report said.

The report also said that Boston’s inner city last-mile travel time, the time it takes to travel one mile into its central business district during prime commute times, was six minutes last year. Its average inner city last-mile speed was 11 miles per hour.  

Previously, INRIX had measured traffic across a full day, and in 2017 Los Angeles ranked No. 1 on its list of most congested cities. For 2018, the analytics firm based its rankings on how much longer it took to commute during the worst rush-hour driving conditions compared to during off-peak driving conditions.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said in his response to INRIX’s report that according to some independent analysts, INRIX’s congestion index has historically been biased against older, denser cities with short average travel distances, such as Boston. Yet even though the report comes with caveats, there’s “no doubt that congestion is an issue right here in Boston,” Walsh said.

He said the City of Boston is constructing a system that uses software to adjust the timing at intersections based on real-time traffic conditions, adding 3.3 miles of total separated bike lanes and updating surcharges on rideshare companies to discourage solo trips, especially during rush hours.

You can download the INRIX 2018 Traffic Scorecard report here and view more of the report’s findings here.

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