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Forest Hills drivers blocking boxes like nobody's business

Gridlock at Forest Hills

Go figure: Crews painted all these new don't-block-this-box boxes around Forest Hills in anticipation of the overpass shutdown and motorists promptly figured screw this, we're going to block these boxes just like we always do, as Chris shows us this morning.

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Comments

They're motionless; why isn't a cop there churning out tickets?

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And the same goes for just about any intersection in, say, the Back Bay during the afternoon rush hour. Blocking the box, failure to yield, etc, etc. Some rules appear to be followed at the driver's discretion.

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LOL, I know, right?

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With the confusion over the new traffic patterns because of the Casey demolition and road construction, traffic details are really needed here, at least during rush hour, to prevent this sort of thing.

I would have thought that MassDOT would be anxious to have the project start off as smoothly as possible and avoid giving BFH any more fodder for criticism. Instead, they seem oblivious.

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You mean the police officers at work sites who stand with their back to traffic talking to the construction workers, or texting, talking on the cell phones or plain hiding in their cars?

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Pretty sure he's referring to the officers who stand in the middle of an intersection and wave you into the path of an oncoming MBTA bus.

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But seriously, this happens all over the city at rush hour, with or without construction nearby.

http://i.imgur.com/qyFeGpW.jpg

They'll post up several officers to pull over cyclists at the BU Bridge from time to time, I've maybe seen 1 or 2 details for dealing with the traffic blocking the box.

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cars are driven by rich white suburbanites

can't stop them from breaking the law

freedom!

bikes are ridden by weirdos with funny hair that we make fun of

easy to target

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And yet you get honked and yelled at from behind, if you stop in front of the lines on a green in order to NOT block an intersection. The drivers in this city are assholes.

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That intersection is incredibly stupid. It's design is probably even illegal.

University Road (which leads to the eastbound Storrow entrance/exit) is sort of part of the traffic light, and sort of not. Vehicles going north from Carlton onto University think they're going straight on green. https://goo.gl/maps/kVe5d https://goo.gl/maps/oRpJ9

Normally when you're going straight on green, pedestrians crossing your path are supposed to see a don't walk light or a red light. But there is no walk/don't walk signal, nor a visible traffic light, for pedestrians walking on the north side of Comm Ave crossing University. https://goo.gl/maps/5pHoi

So who has the right of way?

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I can confirm that from the word of the MassDOT engineers who are in charge of redesigning that intersection.

And since it's an unsignalized crosswalk, that means by state law, it's pedestrian priority under Chapter 89 section 11.

It's confusing to drivers, but from the perspective of pedestrians there is no signal. By law, drivers must yield. Not that they often do. But it happens to be one of the busiest crosswalks in the entire Commonwealth, with around 2,000 people crossing per-hour at certain times.

The redesign will address this problem, supposedly. Probably by signalizing it, which carries its own set of problems, such as causing pedestrian overflow on the sidewalk. We'll see.

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Ok. Now we just have to wait for every driver who might ever use that intersection to call up those MassDOT engineers and ask them whether that crosswalk is signalized or not, and we'll have solved this confusing and dangerous problem.

Didn't they already redesign that area just a few years back? That was the project where they redid all the granite curbs for a two-lane right turn from Comm Ave onto the BU Bridge, and then changed their mind at the last second and filled in the extra space with a quick asphalt job. https://goo.gl/maps/Qxf4t

I'm glad that maintaining the busiest crosswalk in the state is such a high priority. That's why the walk lights have been nonfunctional for weeks (plus they're the old text kind rather than the graphical person/hand), and the curb ramps have been filled with broken asphalt patches for years.

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I share your frustration but that's how it is. Drivers should be behaving more cautiously when making a turn onto a road like that, and in general. Whether they do is another story. I'm a frequent user of the crosswalk, including today, and I know how it goes. I usually wind up using hand signals to stop the traffic. However, many other people are too shy to assert their rights in the unsignalized crosswalk.

The work a few years ago was a temporary measure as part of the BU Bridge project. They were originally going to install a two-lane right turn but then, at the last moment, realized that the plan was overly hazardous to people on foot. So they put the asphalt in as a temporary fix, and swapped to the lane configuration you currently see on the bridge, where 1 lane opens up into 2 lanes symmetrically for both directions.

The MassDOT board voted on an $80 million design-build project this week -- that was the contract to fix this part of Comm Ave, at the BU Bridge. The overpass is crumbling and needs to be replaced ASAP. The University Road intersection will be redesigned as part of that project, which will commence this summer and continue over the next two years.

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Have the MBTA cops do it and send all the ticket money to operational costs!!!!

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Call 911 to report it. They'll pass it to the appropriate station.

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Where are the traffic cops that should be issuing the $150 fines? That is an absolute goldmine right there! $600 in one photo and I am sure that same scene repeated itself light cycle after light cycle.

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Around 6:55 a.m., we passed through that very intersection (from South Street in the Arboretum to South Street in JP - South Street is a very discombobulated street). No problems, no cops, did see a guy in a safety vest at New Washington and South glancing down at the traffic and then checking something off on his clipboard.

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wondering if they were checking for people on bikes. guy in safety vest said "hello sir" and checked off clipboard. The new configuration kind of sucks if you're trying to head south onto washington from the SW corridor via bike, though - I have to ride out into the middle of the turn lane all self-righteous-like "screw you people in cars, I need to turn left here too" - otherwise I'm waiting through a couple light cycles and have to deal with the insane and/or low-IQ drivers on south street (yes, cut me off so you can get to the red light 1 second faster, moron)

I think I'm going to show up at the next meeting and complain about the new temporary configuration - haven't been to any meetings yet.

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While I agree they should be raising money, I think they should be raising it, not begging for it. The same thing your question is doing.

Seriously, though, just selfish/stupid behavior. Do they even bother teaching this to young drivers here? And I say this as someone who learned the law (do not enter the box if you cannot safely clear it, even if the light is green) the hard way, by getting a ticket. And my hope is others would learn the law and stop grinding traffic to a halt during rush hour.

Side bar: if you are blocking a crosswalk, they should make it legal for pedestrians to climb over your vehicle. It's only fair.

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Do they even bother teaching this to young drivers here?

Nope. A good driving school might bring it up, but most adults around here don't have a clue to lend to their kids. It isn't a "junior operator fine" issue applicable to only 1.5 years of driving time, maximum, so it won't get covered in the pathetically minimal exam.

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I never took driver's ed, so I thought that was the reason I wasn't aware.

I ended up contesting the ticket because in my mind I didn't run a red light. I mean, I went through when the light was green, a guy taking a left blocked my way so I had to wait, and it turned red while I was waiting to go, and the light wasn't red for more than a second or so, so in my mind that was as good as a green light. Explaining this to the clerk magistrate, he clearly understood that I in fact really had no idea about the law, so he changed it to a warning. It worked.

The less and less you enforce laws, the less that people will be aware of them, and ultimately the less they will follow them.

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Enforcement of many traffic laws in Boston is pretty much non-existant. So everyone does what they will with the result that driving at rush hour is a nightmare. Blocking the box isn't enforced, snow emergency routes are not enforced, parking in bus stops is not enforced. So nothing gets better and the city doesn't get any ticket revenue.

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Boston drivers don't know what all those pretty stripes mean. In New York they know -- it means a hefty fine plus points on your license.

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This is the most frustrating habit Boston drivers have. I'm normally against cameras issuing tickets because it can be relied on as form of municipal revenue, but I would have NO problem putting red light cameras on the intersections that are constantly blocked by thoughtless drivers.

Pay attention to the flow of traffic. If you see there's room for your car on the other side of the intersection, go. If not, don't. It's pretty simple. The only time I've ever done it was when I just wasn't paying attention, and I was mortified.

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I have stopped before the box to make sure the buses can get out, mainly because I've been the passenger on the bus trapped due to gridlocking more than the driver looking to get through Forest Hills. A few times, drivers behind me got in the other lane and cut in front of me, causing the very thing I was trying to avoid.

Sigh.

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The other permutation is that people start pulling out of the side street and doing the same thing. Thus if you wait to see if there is going to be space... someone else takes that space. Tragedy of the commons.

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That's exactly what it is. If no one blocked the box, everyone would get where they were going faster. But an individual can get somewhere slightly faster by blocking the box. It's an incremental personal gain at the expense of the common good.

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It's not always that simple.

Sometimes the downstream side only clears while one of the inbound legs has the green. Then that leg fills it up, and vehicles on the other inbound leg have no chance of ever getting through unless they briefly block the box.

Not that this in any way excuses blocking cross traffic for the entire cycle while you don't move.

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Yep, you get people going around you to block the box themselves, or people honking angrily, including police officers. There are intersections, as people have mentioned, where traffic is horrible for an hour every morning and/or evening because of people blocking the intersection. Why not just pay a bunch of overtime and enforce the fuck out of this law for a few weeks? It would pay for itself and would have positive effects on the environment and people's sanity.

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I got off the T at Green Street yesterday after work and there were drivers blocking intersections there. Then there were cars backed up on my usually quiet residential street A MILE from the construction at Forest Hills. Congrats on overtaking another residential street with your air and noise pollution, car drivers.

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Traffic was backed up on Amory street from English high all the way back to Atherton. Washington Street was worse. I don't know about Seaver, but I'm sure that is getting the overflow. The next couple of years are going to be traffic hell in JP.

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Washington was backed up at least as far north as Malcolm X Boulevard, which is at least two miles. Thanks to the blocking-the-box shenanigans, that also means that Route 28 (Seaver by the park, Columbus down toward Jackson Square) was backed up for a mile in both directions, and I assume that most of the other east-west routes crossing Washington were just as bad. Driving from Jackson Square to Franklin Park took me just over 45 minutes; I could have walked it in 20.

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people will actually honk at you if you DON'T block the box.

People are the worst.

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people in cars are the worst :)

[preparing for the pro-car patrol in 3...2...1....]

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Is it the nature of people that causes bad behavior, or is it the anonymity of being encased in metal and dealing with anonymous people encased in metal that causes the behavior?

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It's been this way for 60+ years:

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I bike to work about 3/4 of the time and drive the rest. It's like being Dr. Jekyll 3/4 of the time and Mr. Hyde the rest. I can feel the difference and it's amazing what that steel and glass (and the stress of driving in traffic) will do to me.

Or what Louis CK says.

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Is that it's people. whether one is in a car or on a bicycle or a motorcycle or walking. EVERYone feels they're in the right. What's really happening is no one has any respect for anyone else and is only looking out for #1 (because no one else will, amirite?).

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It's Massholes, all the way down.

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It's people who moved here from away and choose to drive stupid(ly) thinking they're 'fitting in'.

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Pedestrians and cyclists have their own form of rude, offensive, bad behaviors. The anti-car zealots just don't highlight what their own do.

Honestly tell me you don't see pedestrians crossing against the walk signal, outside of crosswalks, etc., all the time; bikes ignoring traffic signals, riding on sidewalks, and so on. Go ahead.

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Car drivers kill 35,000 Americans every year. How many people are killed by pedestrians and cyclists every year? Please tell us. Go ahead.

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Isn't the number of people slaughtered by bikes and pedestrians; the real horror is that drivers have to pay attention to things

(And I should get a T-shirt printed up with how often I get to use this line: Drivers complaining about cyclists who break the law is like the Yankees bitching about Baltimore's payroll)

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Every time someone says something anti-bicycle or anti-pedestrian.

What I'd like to know is when do pedestrians get held accountable for their actions? Or at the very least, have some sense of self-preservation? I can count on 1 hand the number of pedestrians during this morning's commute where they looked in any direction other than their phone or straight ahead when crossing the street. Yes, they may have had the right of way, but that doesn't mean someone will stop for them or see them when they pop out from behind a larger vehicle (in or out of the crosswalk).

The answer is: they don't. They're always in the right because they're the most vulnerable. But this fact doesn't make it right. Yes, motor vehicles must stop for them, but if pedestrians don't give them adequate space to perform that stop, bad schtuff happens. It's physics, not inattentiveness.

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when drivers break the law they can easily kill

when was the last time you heard of someone killed by a speeding pedestrian

bikes can hurt but its extremely rare for it to be serious, like 0.01% of the time compared to cars

speed kills, and cars go the fastest

btw, biking on the sidewalk outside of business districts is completely legal in mass, sometimes the only safe thing to do in fact

you should get your facts straight before pointing fingers

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Pedestrians and cyclists take up far less space and aren't operating heavy machinery on the public ways, drivers take up much more space and are operating heavy machinery on the public ways. The potential for drivers to cause harm is far greater than it is for pedestrians and cyclists.

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We must all operate on the roads/sidewalks together. Everyone needs to pay attention to the world around them.

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...is the hook that you just bit on.

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And there is still no safe way to cross from the Southwest Corridor bike/pedestrian path to Forest Hills. No crosswalk, no pedestrian light and all the drivers turning right on red from New Washington to South makes it a very dangerous intersection if you are not in a car. Thanks MassDOT.

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They'll definitely fix that in time for the Olympics.

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If you were at the last meeting, you would have seen the plans for that.

This does bug me a bit, too. I occasionally like to run from Roslindale to the Back Bay. Admittedly they need to tear the overpass down, which means the area underneath will be impassable, but it does seem little things like this have been overlooked, which was my fear from the get go.

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That walk is really scary now -- people are still crossing where there is no crosswalk anymore and since the cars don't know what they're doing there either, it could really be a bad situation. I talked to a cop standing around at South St & the new entrance to the Arborway the other day to figure out the way I was supposed to walk to get from Forest Hills to the bike path toward Green St station, and asked him how it was going. He said "Terrible," and pointed to a woman trying to cross where the old crosswalk used to be. Of course he did nothing to try to correct anything (as another group of people crossed the same spot -- in the middle of 5 lanes of traffic!).

The signage is also awful right now -- almost no indication that there is no way to get to the bike path from Forest Hills via the direct route people took for a zillion years. You are now supposed to exist Forest Hills station where the buses leave the upper busway for Roslindale, cross the street there, and then walk down the Arboretum side of the street, under the bridge, over the new Arborway entrance, and THEN cross South Street -- a huge U shape that's totally counterintuitive. Same if you are trying to walk to Forest Hills from the bike path.

They need to put a huge sign up at the 39 bus exit side of Forest Hills that says YOU CAN'T GET TO THE BIKE PATH FROM HERE ANYMORE. Turn around and exit from the main upper busway area instead, in front of all the taxis.

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So glad I read this before I was on my bike trying to figure it out on my own!

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Why is there no crosswalk on the east side of South/(the western) Washington under the overpass?

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It's not a very fun guessing game. Can I go now or will that light turn green while I'm halfway across leaving me trapped with only a barrel to hide behind.

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I live roughly halfway between Forest Hills and Green Street and have always commuted to/from FH. Starting last week I've switched to walking to Green St simply to avoid that intersection. I'm not surprised people dart across New Washington as the new routing requires crossing the street multiple times and waiting for multiple light cycles.

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This is what so many people wanted... now you're getting what you asked for! Pro-bridge people predicted this and the anti-bridge people said it wouldn't happen. Time to get some cops down there and start directing traffic. I feel bad for the neighbors.

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The bridge was coming down one way or another, right? The only question was whether a contractor would spend two years putting in surface roads or building a replacement bridge. Either way, the traffic this week would be the same.

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We all know that if the replacement overpass had been built, it would have materialized, fully-formed, from the æther before the current bridge was torn down. It would have gloriously spanned from Arboretum to rotary, twinkling brightly in the twilight sky and causing Forest Hills to smell faintly of fresh-baked bread. Frederick Law Olmsted himself would have shed a tear at its gentle majesty.

It's all right there in the BFH literature.

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Rehab half the bridge while maintaining traffic on the other half? They're doing it for the Longfellow.

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Unless the state engineers are lying through their teeth, which, not being a Bridging Forest Hills member, I don't believe, the bridge would have to be completely taken down to be replaced, because it is in such bad shape. In any case, your solution would still mean replicating what we have this week: One lane of traffic on the bridge and one on the ground.

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Well, it does seem like they find a way to rehab bridges when they want to. But in this case the conclusion from before they even began the analysis was that rerouting traffic to the surface was somehow better for the neighborhood, and suddenly the bridge couldn't be saved.

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This isn't one that can be rebuilt by halves, given the design. The bridges rebuilt by halves, like the ones over the Charles have a completely different design.

I believe the Casey has some issues with the design of the piers themselves, too. You can't partially rebuild a bridge if you have to replace the substructure. The Longfellow was built in an age where uncertainty about material strength and design features resulted in heavily overbuilt and redundant structures. In that case, the bridge was already built in sections with separate structural elements. The Casey does not have that feature - you can't work on the piers by halves.

Structures built during the era when the Casey was built turned out to be "overconfident", as the designers did have a good understanding of materials and structural design, but those things that they didn't account for (like corrosion) when they minimized the amount of steel used are becoming serious problems. Bridges that have either collapsed (Minneapolis; Washington State) or been shut down of late are of this same vintage.

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From what I've read (and no, I did not note the citation at the time and am too lazy to track it down) part of the problem is with the materials used in construction. At the time, there were issues with steel due to issues with the steel industry and supplies due to the defense efforts (the Korean War and/or the Cold War overall.) The concrete and brinks can be dealt with, but the steel is essentially holding the thing up.

My gut, not bring a structural engineer, is that if they had better materials, we would not be having this discussion today. Or maybe we still would be, but the tenor would be different as proponents would be demanding the dismantling of a perfectly fine bridge as oppose to the deteriorating structure we are dealing with now.

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The problem isn't so much the quality of the steel, but the quantity.

Due to all the post-war building going on, and some supply difficulties, the price for steel was very high. At the same time, engineers were increasingly able to test materials and calculate complicated structural loadings, and thus design for minimal amounts of steel to do the job, with some margin for safety.

The problem is, these minimal structures weren't designed to account for certain conditions which arose during their lifespan (or their use beyond their expected lifespan). These include a wide variety of conditions: corrosion due to road salt and time (the infiltration of salt into concrete wasn't well understood at the time), large increases in the loadings of trucks, loads from additional layers of pavement and concrete, downsizing of government such that inspections became less frequent, and simple degradation over time (cyclic stress and its interactions with corrosion).

The Casey is not alone in this situation. One reason the price of steel was so high when it was built was that so many structures were being built at the same time. This is why so many retrofits and rebuilds are underway now.

So ... there isn't anything wrong with the steel itself that hasn't been the result of years of use. What is wrong is that the expectations of inspection and replacement, and the loads on the structure, are beyond the original expectations. (It is possible that this overpass was built with a lower grade of steel than specified due to the shortages, however).

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I knew the postwar steel shortage was the reason, but as Paul Harvey would say, now I know the rest of the story.

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This is what so many people wanted... now you're getting what you asked for!

Shut up, you fucking moron.

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Enjoy sitting in traffic, scratchie! Pssst... time to start biking.

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Scratchie moved to North Carolina a good while back, but enjoys taunting us remaining Bostonians due to his abiding love for our city and its residents. ;-(

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I occasionally see the box blocked at railroad crossings. I can't even fathom the stupidity...

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They tried putting "dont block the box" signs and markers in the Longwood area a year or two ago. The cops enforced it for a few weeks, but shortly after its no longer enforced. Therefore, its ignored and the intersections are jammed again. Its one of those things, people dont notice it because its never enforced in Massachuetts. In NYC, no one dares, they will get a ticket in a second.
Until they decide to enforce it, it will be ignored.

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Someone who lives near Forrest Hills should forward this blog post to their local Precinct Captain and Community Service Police Officer. And City Councilor, too.

It may not do anything, and I'm sure they're busy with murder and domestic violence and stuff, but maybe it could spur a little enforcement.

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I ended up walking both from Roslindale Square to Forest Hills and vice versa today. The afternoon walk was planned exercise, and the morning walk was me thinking I could beat the bus (which I didn't).

The traffic seemed good in the AM, and mind you I am talking 8:20 on a school day. There was even a woman who looked like a traffic engineer (dressed business casual with a fluorescent bib holding a clipboard at an intersection.)

The afternoon, on the other hand, was a mess. The traffic inbound was backed up from the station to Cibao Market, or Claxton Street if you will. Walking outbound, I did notice the lack of traffic heading in my direction, and no buses passed me until I hit the square. Also, there were 2 traffic cops at Ukraine Way theoretically making sure there was no gridlock, but they were only working halfheartedly.

These are the things us cynics were worried about. My faith in this project, tiny to start, is growing less each week.

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Last night everything going down Washington was running at least 20 minutes late -- and Washington was backed up (going North) almost until Puritan Ice Cream, while traffic going South was solid all the way to Ukraine in the left lane (while the right lane was virtually empty). Buses trying to exit and enter the station were having a very hard time.

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