State's longest parking lot

93 and Zakim ramps

Justin Porter looked out his window around 5:30 p.m. and saw lots of motionless vehicles on and near the Zakim.



Free tagging: 


I can't wait

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for the Longfellow Bridge to close a bunch of lanes on the 20th.


Let's survey everybody in traffic and ask them to state their profession, and whether or not they could to their job effectively without commuting to an office during peak hours.

I wonder how many people stuck in this mess could have worked online from their home for at least part of the day, thus staggering traffic instead of creating rush hours.


Yeah, seriously

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Let's survey everyone in traffic and see if they're the only person in a 4-8 (some third-row seating SUVs seat EIGHT!) passenger vehicle.

Let's ask them if they could do their commute via public transit.

Let's ask them how much time they spend door-to-door and then ask them to figure out how long it'd take them door-to-door via public transit.

Let's explain to them that instead of spending that time staring at the road, they could be reading a book, or the paper, or napping, or socializing with their fellow commuters.

Let's ask them to work out how much they're spending each year on the time, gas, and vehicle wear&tear by commuting a longer distance, and if they'd rather take a job that pays that amount less, closer to home....or take public transit. Or move closer to the city, where they'll pay more for their housing, but get a few hundred hours a week of their life back?

Let's ask them what they think about growth, and where the extra people, sitting alone in their big cars, will go?


Read a book?! TALK TO FELLOW

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Read a book?! TALK TO FELLOW COMMUTERS??? Until there exists small screens on which I can watch my TV shows, public transportation is out of the question.

And how many need a car?

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I'm curious how many of these are able-bodied people, who don't take care of anyone else they'd need to get to quickly, and could easily take the T or bike.

A lot of people commute from

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A lot of people commute from the suburbs, even from NH. The rail to North Station from Lowell still takes about an hour, not to mention the time to drive to and from the station. Having grown up in the suburbs and knowing many people who have had to do this commute, I can tell you with certainty that they're driving because most times it's still faster and more convenient than public transport.


Have any of you tried to take

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Have any of you tried to take public transport from a suburb? Any of the lines near me don't have enough parking and it's too far of a walk from home. I think one thing to make it more feasible is more parking availability at the commuter rail and t stops. I don't understand how the state can push public transportation but dont provide parking. I would say a majority of those in suburbs are not within walking distance to their nearest transporation hub.

And even with that all said and done, you're still going to have traffic and commuters. How many of these people come from out of state or one of the many parts of the state with no public transport? How many are going to hospitals in town? I don't get how some look at this picture and assume evil intent.

Even worse, try taking public

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Even worse, try taking public transportation TO the suburbs. The options are extremely limited. Considering Waltham hosts so many companies, the options to get there from Boston or near to Boston are pretty few with reasonable travel times.

Why Not Waltham?

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You're on to something here, MikeA, although if you look at where many of the companies are (along 128, not in downtown Waltham), and then look at the transit options from downtown Waltham out to the highway, the problem becomes clear. The solution is even clearer, but we don't talk about those things.

On a related note, that Waltham is not the go-to place for many younger people to live continues to boggle my mind.

It has plentiful relatively affordable housing (bonus, kids raised in suburbs who grew up with keys in your mouth, you can even get off-street parking with most dwellings!)

It has a decent number of good restaurants/bars, etc., and there are still some pretty interesting things on Moody St.

It is relatively safe (particularly now that there are no Tsarnaevs running around).

The recreation paths along the river (and the river itself out there in the lakes district!) are some of the most under appreciated resources in Greater Boston.

There is reasonably good train service to/from North Station.

Yet I personally know of several 20 somethings who work in Waltham and choose to live in A-B. Is it that important to be able to take the Green Line to Faneuil Hall bars or is there some kind of prestige associated with living in A-B of which I am unaware?

I'm a 20 something and in the

I'm a 20 something and in the said industry. Though I don't work in Waltham. All I can say is the desire for Allston is probably momentum. As long the largest number of 20 somethings lives in Allston, that's where the other 20's something wants to go.

Though there's Brandeis for seeding with people of similar age with Moody Street as a fun area in Waltham, so you're right there still a oddness why we aren't moving there more (well for me is I don't work there so far, at least for now)

TOTALLY agree with this,

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TOTALLY agree with this, except when you have the type of boss who feels that being all together in the office is very, very important (it is not that important.)


Do you really think people

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Do you really think people commute because they enjoy it more than being at home? Few companies allow telecommuting. Have fun with your useless survey.


You're making my point

At what point did I indicate that these people were commuting at rush hour voluntarily?

I'm aware that few companies allow telecommuting. More should. That's the frickin' point. Give them incentive to do so. The notion that everybody needs to be together from 9 AM to 5 PM is a crock.

Have a couple of meetings during the week, because team camaraderie is important, but the notion that people sitting in line in their cars is good for society in any way is goofy. Ever seen the LA skyline? That comes from idling cars.


It seems to be a misunderstanding

The way it is worded, it sounded like you put the blame with the commuting drivers than the companies. With saying one should survey all those drivers and no qualifier or mention of companies, it is reasonable to interpret an intent to shame the drivers for being so selfish to go to work.

MBTA Schedule doesn't help

The trains and transit frequencies and commuter buses are all pretty much premised on people leaving for the city between 7:30 and 9:00 and returning sometime between 4:30 and 6:00.

If your workplace has a lot of transit commuters, this narrows the in-office times and means that those who aren't tied into them by transit need to accommodate them anyway.

(Anybody else note how downtown buildings tend to go into "night mode" at six pm as well??)

Also, when the school year is in full swing, people with kids (a fair percentage of the commutariat) are locked into start and end times of schools and after-school programs (or, at least, bus stop times), which are pretty narrowly distributed.

Most expensive parking lot also

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At a price tag of fifteen billion dollars, this wasn't supposed to happen with the Big Dig. Isn't that what we were told?



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Should have torn down the highway and rebuilt more transit plus all the buildings torn down in the '50's. We'd still have billions left over and the city would be a better place to live.


Well compared to the old

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Well compared to the old elevated Central Artery. Yes traffic is better overall.

And yes, part of the big dig was to alleviate traffic. Remember the old elevated highway was built to support 55k cars, and by the late 1990s was supporting 120k (I think), so we needed to build a highway that was adequate for the load. If we didn't, we'd see this at 9pm and even worse at 5pm.

Plus there were other reasons for the big dig.. it was built with intent that I695 would be built, it was built before modern highway standards, too many off-ramps/on-ramps, too narrow, it was an eye sore, etc etc. So the big did wasn't just for traffic reasons.

Yeah traffic still happens regardless. You'll never build enough highways to alleviate traffic. You don't need to go any further and look at Los Angeles's highway system to see that. Massive 8-12 lane highways everywhere. Does LA still have traffic? Yeah, and it makes Boston look like child's play.

I'm just as much as a cynic about the Big Dig as anyone else, however, they did have some very valid reasons for doing it (too bad the execution went horribly wrong)



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And don't forget that the CA/T project was suppose to include transit options, like the GLX. Which at the time was a legal requirement, but that has since changed. (yeah sorry folks, GLX is no longer a CA/T mitigation requirement)

of course, 10 years *AFTER* the Big Dig is "substantially complete", they are just breaking ground on the GLX.


At Least We Used To Have A Nice View

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On the old elevated Central Artery, at least we had a nice view while being stuck in traffic. Now, traffic can move just as slow, but you're stuck in a filthy tunnel.

Traffic is horrible in Boston because of bottlenecks outside the urban core; the Braintree Split backs up the Southeast Expressway, and the interchange at Route 128 backs up I-93; but there's still too many people driving cars instead of using mass transit.

The East-West routes into Boston are very heavily tolled, while North-South commuters pay no tolls at all. Besides equalizing this unfairness, tolling the North-South expressways would encourage a lot more people to take public transportation. Ultimately, that would build support for making the mass transit systems better.

Traffic = economic activity

Traffic = economic activity. Recession and unemployment is the most effective way to reduce traffic. People having jobs to go to and money to spend places is the positive way to think of traffic, rather than it being a problem.

If more people could telecommute, many businesses could leave Boston and Cambridge for cheaper rents elsewhere. Everybody wins - employees and employers, well, except the cities of Boston and Cambridge lose tax revenue.


Cars are an inefficient expression of that

People waiting in traffic wait. Sure some of them are on the phone, etc. but there is a cost to that in accidents as well. They are also wasting gas and other resources running engines, going nowhere.

At least people using transit are often working these days, as are people in a carpool when they aren't driving. Cyclists, runners, walkers, etc.? Getting exercise they might not otherwise have time for and reducing the obesity burden on healthcare systems (a shower takes the same amount of time at work as at home).


Some newer cars, and in the

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Some newer cars, and in the near future all newer cars, turnoff the engine when the car is not moving.... eg at red lights or in traffic jams.

The 100 mpg gallon car is coming.... VW in Europe is selling a fossil fuel Passat that gets 65 mpg.

Low speed follow the car in front cruise control is under development and available in a few cars now but in future will be in enough cars to eliminate the type of jams seen in that picture.

Auto technology to move more people faster, cleaner, safer and quieter is improving very quickly. And most important the technology will allow existing infrastructure to handle more traffic volume.

Which isn't to say we shouldn't give up on the T... there is always hope that.



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I have severe doubts that technology can eliminate jams when there are just too many cars trying to go down the road. And besides that, all the capacity in the world doesn't solve the parking problem for personal vehicles. Even in the 1940s they realized that. They calculated that highway commuting would require a parking lot the size of the North End, at least.

So, unless you want to see the city gutted for parking, it's simply not geometrically possible to support personal vehicle commutes for everyone. Another solution must be found.


Get more people to use motorbikes

Remember the list of the most dense cities in the world? Well, coincidentally motorbikes are in far greater use in the top ones than anywhere in the US. Motorbikes solves parking and road space problems. There are more than just your limited proposed solutions to problems.

A Fair Truth

That is true that historically, the large congestion lowering event has been economy. My sense by your branding, many will just assume you're only thinking about cars. So I'll add crowded subways, bike lanes, and sidewalks all share that truth.

That said, it would be nice if the area in the picture does not turn into a parking lot every rush hour (and I think weekend too?). From what I can tell, I do think some of the congestion is not the inevitable type (like one can argue outbound will always be congested, the only want to handle it would require an absurd level of lanes which would defeat the purpose). The addressable congestion is the Leverett Connector (Exit ramp to Storrow/Circle) traffic. It is funneling both Tobin Bridge and 93 into one lane into the tunnel. With that, it blocks the third ramp traffic and the exit ramp towards the circle.

I suspect much can be alleviated if the cars take the Turnpike (or better distributed to not overwhelm Leverett). Which makes me wonder how much would be helped with off-ramps in the Turnpike into Boston and/or ending tolls in Allston.


Design error

The Leverett Connector back up must be caused by bad design and poor traffic simulation. Exceeding capacity so soon after build shows how unreliable traffic simulations are.

Massachusetts never evaluates projects after built to see how accurate the traffic simulations were for the design, so bad simulations never get fixed. Some designs count on having no accountability, use bad data for simulations and pretend congestion doesn't exist. Cambridge, for example takes data in Kendall Square where traffic is low instead of major routes.

Leverett Connector Not Design Error

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Problem will always be narrowest section of roadway - the Storrow on ramp/tunnel entrance - which was never part of the Big Dig. The Leverett Connector does it's job in my mind - gets traffic off of 93 to wait in the crazy line for anyone who insists on taking Storrow.

Same with the Big Dig - traffic moves fine in the actual project limits. The northbound backup is due to Sullivan Sq exit and the drop to 3 lanes at Route 28. That said, we should take a lane each way for heavy rail and put parking garages at each on/off ramp. It's the easiest way to expand high capacity rail.

I'm reading The Power Broker

I'm reading The Power Broker right now, a Robert Moses biography, and just finished a section on the parkways and bridges he built. Every single parkway was heralded as the 'SOLUTION TO NYC'S TRAFFIC PROBLEMS!' and guess what, as soon as the parkway or bridge was completed, within a month it was jam packed with cars. The solution? Build another parkway. The Triborough Bridge, Hudson Bridge, Brooklyn-Battery Bridge, Westside Highway, LIE, Northern, Southern and Central Parkways, Brooklyn Queens Expressway, 95, Cross-Bronx, Bruckner Expressway... the list goes on and on.

It's interesting how we still have not realized that building more highways or adding lanes, aka increasing capacity, does not alleviate congestion. Traffic inefficiencies aside, as long as cars are viewed as the optimal mode of transportation, we will have traffic.

Excellent book

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I never expected a 1,200 page book on NY state politics to be readable, but Caro's style is incredible, it reads like an epic novel. With copious, but unobtrusive, endnotes. And interest far beyond just NYC.

As early as the 1930s people started to realize that adding capacity did not relieve congestion, but they were ignored by the engineers. The modelers started to understand the problem in the early 1960s but it wasn't until the 1970s when communities were finally able to stop the destruction.

If Boston had completed constructing their highway plan, the places that I currently live and work would be a desolated wasteland.


Moses was like a New Deal Mr. Potter

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He never even had a driver's license - was always chaperoned all over the place.

And as I think Caro notes (been awhile since I read the book), Moses had even more plans: A superhighway right across lower Manhattan, extending the Gowanus Expressway all the way down Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn, etc. And yet, when he had the chance to extend a subway from Brooklyn to Staten Island on the Verezzano-Narrows, he vetoed it. Because subways had no place in his world.

Then he grew old and people rebelled. And when the West Side Drive (sort of like the Central Artery, only creakier) collapsed (literally, the road gave way and a truck fell through it), the city eventually decided to use the money for subways instead of for a replacement superhighway.

Shades of the Orange Line!

In fact, we had our own Moses, William Callahan, who in his own way was just as venal and road-centric as Moses (even if it's not true he was trying to stick it to Brahmins by making the turnpike logo green, with an arrow right through the Pilgrim hat, there's a reason the turnpike avoids Worcester). He just maybe got started a little later and wasn't able to wreak quite as much damage (thanks in part to people in the inner city remembering the West End).

Moses methods

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He planned for an elevated superhighway above Canal Street and one above 31st Street. Knocking down half the buildings to make room. He purposefully built the Van Wyck in a way to block a potential easy subway extension to Idlewild (JFK) Airport. He refused to allow a LIRR branch to Jones Beach. The people in the buildings he "appropriated" were shuffled from apartment to apartment, just one step ahead of the bulldozers, until they were finally dumped on the street. He would tell the press that everyone was being "resettled" but he would not tell them that he actually sent all the families to view the same exact replacement apartment, which only one lucky family could have. And its condition was usually worse off than they had before. He practically invented what was termed "legal graft" where his favorite contractors were enriched by copious public money as long as they did everything he ever asked. Et cetera.

He was a smart, ruthless man. He learned to write legislation and used his knowledge and connections to do what we might term "hacking" of laws. He gained his power by inserting innocuous-seeming clauses into bills, without anyone being the wiser about it, until it was too late. He understood the full implications of the power of Public Authorities long before anyone else.

He did some good things, like fighting the selfish, wealthy robber barons in Long Island so that New Yorkers could have nice beaches and parks. But he was too arrogant to realize or care when his plans were trampling the people he was supposed to be helping. And he literally went deaf, surrounded himself with yes-men, and seemed almost trapped in his vision of a world from the 1920s. And he was unabashedly racist.

The book ought to be a must-read for anyone getting involved in city or state politics, in any place. If only as a cautionary tale about the ways government can be manipulated by the powerful.

Planners are dangerous people

Moses and planners today seem equally driven when it comes to personal visions of how the wold ought to be. Too bad for the public if they don't like whatever vision it is.

The problem is giving planners too much power and not letting people decide by vote or action what they want. So what if its a little messier than a pristine blueprint. By their actions, people have voted for more roadway, while 7 of 1,000 bicycle to work.


So, Markk

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When are you moving to slums of Rio, Mexico City or Dehli.

No planners there.


Well since Boston's rate of

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Well since Boston's rate of bicycle commuting is around 2%, you really mean to say 20 out of 1,000. Certainly not an insignificant number. Also, there's a reason why we don't vote on roadway plans. It's called the tyranny of the majority. If we only accommodated the people who used the most common mode of transportation, we'd likely have streets that are even less pedestrian and bicycle friendly than we have already (which in many place are actually not very friendly). Thankfully we have laws and regulations and public officials designing for the safety of ALL roadway users, not just those who drive.

Ah, the Semi-annual appearance of a Robert Moses thread!

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Clearly this is in your line of work, and you are obviously well-versed in both Mr. Moses the man and the history of his projects. I think that most of what you said above is accurate and relatively balanced.

I'm not writing to quibble or to defend Moses. It was a different era, and probably happily for all of us, we now look at the many or most of the things that Moses did as wrong.

I have only a few things to say/add/ask.

1) Caro's book is now viewed as not only the authoritative source on Moses, but pretty much the only source. That strikes me as a little odd and probably not right. Caro, as we all do, likes who he likes (LBJ) and hates who he hates.

2) New York would not be half the city and region it is today (from an economic standpoint) without three things: The Erie Canal, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and Robert Moses. That may or may not be a good thing, but its a thing.

3) A question: what if there was another Robert Moses to come along in the next 10 years, except that s/he wanted to build transportation infrastructure that was not for private transport (e.g., a regional high speed rail network, expanded subways, etc.). Presume that this person will be just as aggressive or ruthless (although, given the changes in social norms, law, etc., it's hard to see how that could happen) and would run bulldozers right through urban neighborhoods for that purpose. In 50 years, does that person get the treatment Caro has given Moses, or is that person treated like a national hero and celebrity? Why? Do you think the non-UHub universe would agree?

The Power Broker

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1) It's not a pure biography. Caro has a point to make: that the actions taken by Robert Moses and affiliates were to the detriment of the city, particularly the less affluent. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Now, he's very meticulous in background and sourcing which is why it reads partially as a biography, but it's not, and it includes extensive discussion of several other major political actors as well.

Also, Caro had the privilege of interviewing many of the first-hand sources even while Moses still had power, in the late 1960s, including many intensive sessions with Moses himself. Many of those folks were quite old, and several did not live long enough to see the book published. It's a lot different perspective than we have 40 years later.

But on the topic of authors, take a guess who wrote this passage:

"In every city throughout the country and in the sprawling suburbs surrounding the larger cities, traffic is piling up in swollen gasoline gullies, throttling industry, commerce and business; blocking street cleaning, fire and police apparatus; endangering the lives of men and women going to work, of mothers pushing baby carriages, and of children going to and from schools and playgrounds."

2) I'd only agree with you regarding the Erie Canal, and perhaps a few other very specific projects, like river crossings. Most of the "parkways" and expressways laid out by Moses's authorities were mostly for the benefit of suburban commuters and did not help the City itself, except perhaps incidentally. Now you could argue that this expanded the city region of New York which may have "helped" the economy. Or it just spread everything out further and acted as a drag on the economy.

By the 1970s, New York City was falling apart. The nadir wouldn't come until the mid-70s perhaps, but it didn't get better for many years. It's my belief that Robert Moses's manipulations were a proximate cause of the 1970s shitfest (technical term). So much important infrastructure was simply left to rot. Decades of deferred maintenance. "Legal" graft, where contractors simply bled the public purse under the auspices of the Authorities. Money flying out of the City to pave brand new highways, while the urban realm deteriorated.

So, if anything, New York City is half the city it could have been if Moses hadn't ruled for over three decades.

3) We shouldn't build infrastructure by destroying communities. That much is clear. Although: putting up wires (for example) is not "destroying" anything, so let's not go total NIMBY. I don't mean idiot stuff like fear of shadows. By destruction I mean ripping families from their homes, Moses-style, and bulldozing them. That should never be repeated.

The key thing about Moses is that "he was always right." In that, if you said he was wrong, you became the target of a personal vendetta by him. In the Internet age, if someone somehow figured out how to "hack" the system like Moses did, I'm quite confident that the "Caro treatment" would come out quite quickly: much more quickly than the 7 years it took to write The Power Broker.

In 50 years, I don't know. In 100 years? When several generations have passed? Well perhaps it would depend on the enduring quality of the work. I don't think Moses's work has aged well. The personal automobile doesn't scale. He hardened his ideas at a time in the 1920s when automobiles were a luxury and they did not know the scale of the problems associated with them yet. There's not really any enduring beauty in a highway, either, even though Moses was obsessed with manicuring his "parkways" and got upset when drivers sped by without admiring the flowers.

Perhaps Baron Haussmann is the closest comparison. He tore up Paris to build the famous boulevards, and enforced a certain type of architecture in the redevelopment. A great deal of human strife was involved, and many small streets and communities were destroyed. But everyone is so long ago dead that all we have left is the legacy of the architecture. And it's not necessarily the best thing in the world, but it's quite decent in comparison to most.

I don't think Moses's legacy in another 50 years will be as fondly looked upon as Haussmann's, other than the state park system and perhaps some river crossings. Assuming they don't fall apart.

Couldn't have said it better

I wouldn't wish using the T to get around on my worst enemy. A good friend of mine once told me "don't send anybody to do a job you wouldn't do yourself."

If I were in charge, I would never demand that people use the MBTA. Hell no. I wouldn't ride - why should anybody else? Demanding that people tolerate crap doesn't advance anything.


5pm drivers are insane

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Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

You mean like going to work

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You mean like going to work every day? What about healthcare workers that can't work from home and have set schedules? What do you suggest for them? How about the thousands of other workers that must work from the office?

What about the people going for medical care? I have family that needs dialysis 3 times a week and has to deal with this?

It must be nice living in a bubble.


Missing the point

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If SOME people who are able to work from home or time shift do so, then traffic improves for those who don't have that option.

There's no need for everyone to stop driving ever. Your strawmen can still get to work and to medical appointments. We have these things in the real world called shades of gray. All or nothing is rarely the needed solution.

Public transportation is so

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Public transportation is so unpleasant and inconvenient that I'd be in one of those cars if I had to work far from home. I used to bicycle to work, but got cursed, spit on, cut off, and brushed by cars and trucks. I understand why people would rather sit in a traffic jam than take the T or bike.

Heading north out of Boston,

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Heading north out of Boston, there's no place where you get a choice for the Leverett Connector or the Zakim. If you're coming from Leverett Circle, you're on the Connector. If you're already on 93, you're on the Zakim (or its east side lanes if you got on 93 at Haymarket).

From either bridge, you can get to 93 North exits starting at Medford, or Route 1 (the Tobin).

From the 93 mainline part of the Zakim, you can get to all exits.

But if you're on the Connector, you can't exit at Sullivan.

If you're on the Zakim's east lanes from Haymarket, you can't exit at the Tobin. Instead, you'd have to enter 93 back at Seaport Boulevard, or take North Washington/Rutherford Avenue to the Tobin entrance. (Thanks fer nuthin, designers who slowed down the 111 bus.)

Well, what's the alternative?

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Well, what's the alternative? Having no tunnel at all is a rather big change to the idea of a Big Dig. Maintaining a way for 111 buses to get to the Tobin without sitting at several uncoordinated red lights would be a change of a different scale.

I dunno

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The signs for the Tobin are pretty good.

Beyond that, they could have a massive sign for every exit from the Tobin to St. Johnsbury, but that would cause more confusion than it would alleviate.