In news that won’t surprise most, North Washington Street is the most congested street in the City of Boston. The city rates rush-hour traffic, shown here in this Boston Herald list. North Washington Street rates #1 in traffic congestion from Cross Street to Causeway Street but is far from the only gridlocked street in downtown Boston.

Also in the North End / Waterfront area, Atlantic Avenue, from Cross Street to Kneeland Street, is the 4th most congested road in the city. The rankings quantify that during rush hour, both N. Washington St. and Atlantic Ave. are pretty much at a standstill.

Mayor Marty Walsh today announced plans to add a dedicated bus and bike lane to North Washington Street from Cross Street to the Charlestown Bridge. The North Washington Street bus/bike lane will be in effect 24/7 inbound from the Charlestown Bridge to Haymarket. The effort is part of a multi-faceted attempt to unclog city streets and make them safer, according to city officials.

The Walsh plan further reduces the city speed limit to 20 m.p.h., down from 25. It was just two years ago that the city reduced the speed limit from 40 m.p.h.

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57 COMMENTS

      • Overall traffic volumes on arterials throughout Arlington, VA decreased 3% between 2006 and 2012, even though Arlington’s unemployment rate during the recession was the lowest in the country and Arlington’s population increased by 9,000 residents, an increase of 8%. Of the 14 counted locations, 11 of them showed no increase or a decrease in traffic volume over this time period. Decreases in traffic volumes, or small increases relative to Arlington’s and the region’s population growth, are indicative of successes Arlington has made in implementing both land use and transportation policies, programs, and investments that encourage non-SOV use, including transit, bicycling, and walking.

        As someone who was raised in Arlington, I have actually witnessed this change first-hand over twenty years.

        Source: https://transportation.arlingtonva.us/performance-measures-2014/mobility/traffic-volumes/

  1. Amen Steve.

    Also aren’t bike lanes supposed to protect against cars traveling at a high speed? If the road is already gridlocked, they’re already pretty safe and it’s much easier for them to hop into the north end to dodge traffic.

    The bus lane i’m 50/50 on.

    • Clearly you have never biked in a city before. Please do so during rush hour and then feel free to make comments on behalf of cyclists, but not beforehand.

    • Think about how bad the congestion at the intersection of the bridge already is, can you imagine making people merge into one lane there too? It’s going to be a nightmare.

      I also think allowing a left onto Thatcher coming south is a mistake. They should not allow that.

      • The congestion will actually be occurring in Charlestown, just before the bridge, unless the City re-engineers Rutherford Avenue to match the the bridge’s traffic pattern, in which case there will be no bottleneck at all.

        The new bridge will have two inbound lanes and one inbound bus-only lane. N Washington Street will be the same on the inbound side between the bridge and Haymarket Station. If there is still congestion, it will be because of the volume of drivers, not because of lanes merging.

  2. This is a joke not everyone takes a bus. Mayor Walsh is out of touch with the North End he keeps raising our taxes every year without fail.

    • *Lifelong disgusted resident

      Not everyone is taking a bus, and not everyone needs to. If 5% of people walk/bike/take the bus instead of driving today, the road will no longer be congested. Today, 10,000 people ride the 111 bus on N. Washington St., but they are stuck inching along behind people who are driving alone. Giving these 10,000 people a dedicated bus lane will mean the MBTA can run even more 111 buses that will carry even more people.

      5% Source: https://www.boston.com/cars/car-culture/2018/02/20/boston-traffic-congestion-pricing

    • This is not a joke. Not everyone drives. But how would you know? You are clearly out of touch with the North End if you think everyone living in the neighborhood needs to drive on N Washington Street every day. 50% of North End residents reported not even owning a car.

      Also, why are you so self-concerned about traffic on N Washington Street? It sounds like you don’t spend much time here if you’re consistently crossing the river in a car to run errands.

  3. How does that alleviate traffic??? It just reduces the travel lanes for cars, which in turn creates more gridlock.

    • Have you crossed N. Washington Street during rush hour? The 111 buses, which carry 10,000 people per day, use the route and are frequently stuck behind cars with only one driver in them. A bus lane will allow those 10,000 people to pass by people in cars while occupying a fraction of the roadway. Better yet, faster trip times means that the MBTA will be able to run more 111 buses and carry even more riders.

    • Overall traffic volumes on arterials throughout Arlington, VA decreased 3% between 2006 and 2012, even though Arlington’s unemployment rate during the recession was the lowest in the country and Arlington’s population increased by 9,000 residents, an increase of 8%. Of the 14 counted locations, 11 of them showed no increase or a decrease in traffic volume over this time period. Decreases in traffic volumes, or small increases relative to Arlington’s and the region’s population growth, are indicative of successes Arlington has made in implementing both land use and transportation policies, programs, and investments that encourage non-SOV use, including transit, bicycling, and walking.

      As someone who was raised in Arlington, I have actually witnessed this change first-hand over twenty years.

      Source: https://transportation.arlingtonva.us/performance-measures-2014/mobility/traffic-volumes/

    • Gary, I left out my sarcastic comment about the bike lane on Commercial/Atlantic Ave…haha but I agree totally with you.

    • Sit on one of the benches along Commercial Street and count the number of people biking or jogging in the lane. You’ll be surprised.

      • Sit in a car and try to pull out onto Commercial St while trying to watch for bikes but unable to see cars coming because the engineering and construction of the bike lanes is so horribly flawed. Bike lanes have a place…Commercial St design is not one of them.
        I know you are going to point to some statistic from some obscure group no one has ever heard of but…in the real world, the bike lanes has made driving AND WALKING more dangerous on Commercial St.

        • I’m sorry that making it safe and pleasant to bike on Commercial Street made it so that you actually have to be cautious when pulling out of a garage or lot on one of the wharves–sounds like we need more of this infrastructure to make sure reckless drivers like you are actually paying attention to your surroundings while driving a 3,000-pound piece of metal.

          Also, in the real world, people have actually heard about plenty of the organizations we cite. But I guess in your world, you don’t read the news, you just watch it, so you wouldn’t know about credible sources.

  4. Sorry for the second post, but how does this help the residents of the North end? It only helps people coming into the city. Like the bike lanes, the few people that use it will help people going through the neighborhood, not the actual residents.

    • According to the US Census, 50% of North End Households do not own cars. So adding bike and bus lanes do a lot for these residents, let alone the people who drive who also walk/bike/ride the bus from time-to-time.

    • How many drivers on Commercial Street actually live in the North End? Many of them are just trying to speed around the neighborhood to avoid the congestion on Cross Street/N Washington Street–I know because that’s what Waze tells drivers to do during rush hour. Also, congestion has not worsened on Commercial Street as a result of the bike lane so I don’t know why you’re complaining about it. If I had to choose between increasing one of two through-traffic mode users, I would prefer the space-efficient, silent, slower, and zero-emission bikers rather than cars and trucks. But maybe you like big cars, loud noise, dangerous speeds, and pollution?

      Also, if you’re so self-concerned about traffic on N Washington Street–which has literally become a thoroughfare because of driving commuters and hasn’t been a local street in over 80 years as a result–it sounds like you are spending a lot of time driving out of the North End to run your errands. How does that help the North End?

  5. I’ve come to the conclusion that the Mayor and his staff have meetings and the topic is how can we make living and or commuting in the city of Boston more difficult?

    • We spent 90 years and billions of taxpayer dollars making it easier for residents and non-residents to drive faster through Boston, one of the oldest big cities in the country, laid out long before the advent of the private automobile. Why can we not shift some of our priorities now toward making it easier for other mode users to live and commute in Boston?

      You are a selfish person.

    • The *wrath* of the mayor’s cadre

      I care about these issues because driving alone is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. We need all the bus and bike lanes we can get.

      I’m thankful that Marty “Car Guy” Walsh is finally waking up to the reality that we can’t drive our way out of congestion. When will you?

      • They have just proposed a rate hike for subways and buses. Each time the have hiked fares, ridership drops and the traffic congestion in Boston worsens. Maty Walsh has his head in the sand and you can dig a hole right beside him. But this build it and they will come is a Hollywood fantasy.

  6. A dedicated bike lane should not be considered until the bridge is replaced. In 4 years. It really does seem like the City is messing with us. At a minimum, the two pieces of news today are at odds. Where is the community meeting? Who decides this?

    • The bike lane is the bus lane, as is the case in Roslindale. Bikes will be using the bus lane.

      Also, how is the City messing with you? If you are a resident of the North End, why are you driving into the City from across the river, especially in the morning? If you truly are a neighbor, I don’t understand how this inbound bus lane will affect you directly in any way.

  7. Bus and bike lanes won’t make the congestion go away, just placate environmental groups. The lights and cross intersects at either end of the bridge really snarl traffic. Not synchronizing the lights is a major headache in New England. I remember the joke that signs weren’t necessary to inform you that you were in Connecticut.

    • The 111 buses travel down N. Washington Street and carry 10,000 people per day. Right now, the 111 bus sits in rush hour traffic behind people driving alone. A bus only lane will speed travel times for those 10,000 people and will allow the MBTA to run more buses that will transport even more people. The street is not getting any wider, so the only solution to this congestion is to make it easier to use the street in ways that take up a heck of a lot less space than cars.

      • Sounds like the solution is to make the street narrower? The Bernoulli Principal applied to traffic congestion. Not fluids here, just Boston drivers.

    • You’re right. Bus and bike lanes just placate environmental groups. And demolishing half the North End and 1/3 of downtown Boston for highways just placates drivers… hmm, sounds like the former is more desirable, actually.

      Also, the bus lane may placate environmental groups, but it will also help thousands of low-income workers from Chelsea get to work in Boston more reliably so that you can eat and shop at the price you currently do. I can’t afford to live in the North End and wash dishes for $12 an hour–can you? If you can, then please do! It would be much better for the environment if everyone just walked to work like Bostonians did in 1850 rather than took any form of engine-based transportation 🙂

  8. I think this is great. People need to get over their car entitlement. Make public and alternative transportation more effective than driving and people will be more likely utilize other options.

        • For you to make such a foolish comment , you clearly don’t have children who you have to carpool to after school activities ( many which require bags of equipment ) or have to do a weekly grocery shopping for a family. FAMLIES , who need their CARS, still exist in the area .

      • KMM, I’m confused as to why an inbound dedicated bus lane on N Washington Street means that parents have to transport their children on a bike when going to and from work… your comment is nonsensical.

      • City Councilor Michelle Wu daily takes the bus from Roslindale to Forest Hills, switches to the Orange Line, rides to Haymarket, and then walks to City Hall. She frequently makes this trip with her toddler and her baby in a stroller.

        • Good for her !! I didn’t say it isn’t doable just not always convenient due to the weather conditions and going back and forth to school and daycare to pick up children for appointments or sickness. Did you ever try getting on a crowded train and bus with 2 toddlers and an infant.

          • Yes, I have. But a bus/bike lane is not going to stop you from being able to drive your children, so your argument is irrelevant.

  9. This is great news! Thank you, Mayor Walsh, for your progressive leadership. This initiative will eventually help to slightly mitigate the congestion on N Washington Street which has made it an unbearable barrier for residents and visitors of the North End who enter and exit the neighborhood by foot and/or bike. As someone who was raised in Arlington, I have actually witnessed this change first-hand over twenty years:

    “Overall traffic volumes on arterials throughout Arlington, VA decreased 3% between 2006 and 2012, even though Arlington’s unemployment rate during the recession was the lowest in the country and Arlington’s population increased by 9,000 residents, an increase of 8%. Of the 14 counted locations, 11 of them showed no increase or a decrease in traffic volume over this time period. Decreases in traffic volumes, or small increases relative to Arlington’s and the region’s population growth, are indicative of successes Arlington has made in implementing both land use and transportation policies, programs, and investments that encourage non-SOV use, including transit, bicycling, and walking.”

    *Source: https://transportation.arlingtonva.us/performance-measures-2014/mobility/traffic-volumes/

    It would be even greater if the City improved the existing pedestrian crosswalks at the intersection with Cooper/Beverly Streets and added new ones at Medford Street and the south side of the intersection with Thacher Street/Valenti Way!

      • Steve, how do statistics and actual experiences have nothing to do with something that is going on in our very own neighborhood?

        Arlington prioritized alternative modes of transportation and their arterial traffic actually decreased despite a large population growth, booming economy, and tons of construction. The North End and downtown Boston are experiencing similar trends and so the City is trying to alleviate congestion in ways that are actually proven to work. How is that not relevant?

    • We can’t drive our way out of congestion, Steve. We can either learn from other places that succeeded in reducing congestion or we can bury our heads in the sand.

  10. Lots of comments about the number on non car owners in the neighborhood, how many people in the North End bike to work?

    • I bike, walk or run 3 miles to work. While I could drive and park for free, I am proud to get myself there without contributing to an ongoing problem that most people wish to ignore.

  11. Reading some of these comments is why we can’t have nice things. Supporting infrastructure projects for public transportation, including cycling is a must for a severely congested city such as Boston. Four bikes and no cars. Oh and a T pass or two kicking around the house just in case.

  12. I have lived on No. Washington St. for 58 years and this traffic problem began with the big dig. When I saw the plans for the entrance of the Callahan tunnel and 93 southbound, I stated to one of the engineers, the the traffic on No. Washington St. will be unbelievable, he said to me “no it won’t, it will be much better” I like to know where he got his degree!

    As to the Southbound bus/bike lane, will the parking lane be taken? There are bike lanes on No. Washington St. now and the cyclist do not stop at the red lights and pedestrians play dodge it with bikes.

  13. As for the cyclists who refuse to stop at red lights and the drivers who refuse to stop at crosswalks to allow pedestrians to cross a street.Once again I ask where is the law enforcement in this city?

  14. I think most people who drive cars will admit they have rolled through a stop sign or gone through a red light or neglected to stop for someone in a crosswalk. It happens and we all see it.

    But I’m still waiting for a biker who will admit they EVER blew through a stop sign or failed to stop for someone in a crosswalk.

    Traffic laws are for everyone to follow. Bikers don’t seem to think the traffic laws are for them to follow.

    • ITA with the bikers that don’t stop. I was in the middle of a crosswalk and was nearly mowed down. I called the guy an a-hole and pointed out that I was in the middle of the crosswalk. He in turn called me an a-hole, and said he had a green light. The light apparently changed while I was in the crosswalk. Unfortunately, I left my hoverboard at home that morning so I had no way of levitating out of his way.

  15. The city needs to add a lane for buses and a lane for bikes, not take away form two lanes that are already congested. I only drive over that bridge on rare occasions, but in rush hour traffic it can take up to an hour to get from exit 28 south bound to North End. So I feel terrible for people in cars and on buses to commute this way every day, I hope mayor does too.

  16. People who think more vehicular lanes reduce traffic congestion should enter “induced demand” into the ol’ Google search engine then check back in.

  17. There are a slew of idling school buses that occupy a whole block of Hanover Street while waiting for the kids to finish school. They arrive from other areas.
    Seeing they are completely empty until they approach the North End maybe some arrangements could be made for these buses to pick up fares along the way until they reach their final destination, Hanover to Charter Street, North End.
    What a way to alleviate some of the horrendous vehicle traffic conditions on our roads. How convenient it would be for all.
    And as an added plus of course, setting a reasonable rate could help service the bus company’s expenses and help to defray costs.
    Don’t know the set-up for these buses and if this idea is farfetched. Maybe though there could be a chance it might work.
    Who knows, maybe we can get lucky.

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