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BOSTON - Labor Day and summer vacations are in the rear-view mirror.
Whether we like it or not, that means most of us are returning to our normal routines and getting back in our cars to drive to work or school. A new phenomenon is the advent of rush hour type traffic at all hours of the day. A recent survey found Boston now ranks eighth in the country when it comes to bad traffic.
“Oh, it has gotten so much worse,” said Regina Sohn, who commutes daily between Brookline and Billerica. Sohn said her drive has become very stressful. “Because of my strange schedule to bring kids home, and bring kids where they need to go, I have seen traffic starting at 2 p.m.,” she said.
The research firm Inrix studied how Boston area travel has changed and they determined the number of miles being driven on area roads has jumped 10 percent over the past four years. Many commuters are hitting the road at different times to try and beat the rush, but that doesn’t seem to work anymore.
Matt Casale, a staff attorney at MASSPIRG who specializes in transportation issues, says rush hour now happens at any time of the day and any day of the week. “The real reason for this is because of the amount of cars on the road ... Our current transportation system, was developed in the 1950s,” explained Casale.
That creates a two-fold problem: the roads built in that era were designed to handle fewer cars; also, that infrastructure is now reaching the end of its life and either needs to be fixed of replaced. Casale pointed to the recent Commonwealth Avenue bridge project near Boston University as an example of a construction problem that created all kinds of traffic mayhem. Factor in lower gas prices and a healthy economy putting more people on the roads, and that creates a perfect storm for traffic.
“It was sort of this confluence of events that got people back on the road, and we can't trust that that is going to bottom out,” added Casale.
Dr. Danny Mendoza, chairman of the psychiatry department at Beth Israel Deaconess in Plymouth, said the lack of traffic’s predictability is tremendously anxiety provoking. “You can’t disconnect from what’s happening, in terms of reverie, thinking about what you are going to eat tonight, whether you are going to the gym, because you are just focusing on going home and it’s no longer this peaceful drive home. It’s just stop and go traffic,” said Dr. Mendoza.
A scenario Regina Sohn knows all too well, as she juggles a busy career and the needs of her family. “It’s very anxiety provoking. Sometimes, I plan for an hour, and because something like a call runs late, I have just 45 minutes or a half hour and that just doesn’t do it,” Sohn said.
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