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State manages to make Storrow Drive even worse

Rob Sama reports that recent changes to Storrow Drive westbound at the Fenway/Kenmore exits have turned the road into "a veritable parking lot during rush hours." He posts a copy of a letter to his state rep.

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they are doing a lot of road work around the Fenway interchange. The bike path is detoured onto a temporary wooden structure in the same area.

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Nope.

They painted new right of way lines. Now instead of the middle lane being a turn, or stay on storrow, both the left and middle lanes are right turn offs only!

I was caught in the middle lane very unexpectedly the other day on my way to Rt2... as of course they didn't put up any signage to designate the lane change directions before you get to the new exit.

So now, all traffic on storrow traveling west is funneled into one lane, as to give the on ramp from Fenway their own dedicated lane.

While I know getting on to storrow from that ramp was a pain, backing up traffic to 93 during rush hour seems like it's not worth they payoff.

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The signage was up BEFORE the lanes were repainted. A couple months ago I remember seeing the new sign saying the left two lanes were exit only, getting into the far right lane, then seeing that the middle lane was still a straight-or-left lane. Then it was repainted to go with the signage.

http://1smootshort.blogspot.com

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Commuters drive by habit. The fact that it is a change, is a big part of the problem. Leave it there long enough, and one can tell if it is a design issue. Unless, the design is just so terrible that it's already apparent.

I drove it yesterday, mid-day, for the first time. I had no issue with it whatsoever.

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Funneling two lanes of traffic down to one on storrow drive during rush hour is a big problem no matter how you cut it. Mid day, not so much.

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seth, it's not rocket science. When you narrow a highway down to one lane, you create a major bottleneck that causes traffic jams during high-peak hours. No amount of time will make the problem go away, it's just too many cars in too small a space, and the DCR had to have realized that. They intentionally created a traffic jam.

You drove it mid-day and there was no problem? That's nice. I'll bet you'd have the same experience at midnight, too. How does that help the average rush hour commuter that's stuck in traffic when it IS an issue?

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I ran into this the other day, and I hope it is temporary. Essentially, if you aren't getting off at Kenmore/Fenway, you are restricted to a single lane, whereas before there were two lanes for Newton bound traffic. Doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that will cause a backup, though apparently it does take more than a traffic engineer.

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I think that Ron may be onto something (that the current configuration is temporary), but I have to say, I am a bit concerned because the new signage makes it look like it might be permanent.

If Mr. Sama thinks it is bad now, and I don't disagree with that assessement, just wait until September. Hundreds of people who work in Longwood will not be on vacation anymore, the Red Sox will still be playing, and, the kicker, BU will be back in session. This could really turn things into a debacle and a half.

On a different but related and slightly positive note, I think the changes to the tunnel on the eastbound side are a big improvement (I didn't think that white paint on the walls of the tunnel would help so much, but it does).

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isaacg, this change will actually help the Longwood crowd, for it is they who take this west-bound on ramp in great numbers.

I use the infamous Bowker interchange every time I take Storrow Drive, especially the west-bound on ramp. This change is intended to make life easier for me and it seems a daft move. The merge is very difficult and can only be done efficiently at speed. That takes more guts than the average driver has, so rush hour traffic backs up the ramp toward Boylston Street. Metering the on-ramp traffic might help, but Massachusetts drivers are apparently unable to learn how to handle a metered merge.

Rob Sama's blog post (and letter to his legislator) seem particularly ill-informed: he wants us to surrender some of the park so his commute back to Belmont will be easier. Sacrificing additional parkland for a roadway shouldn't happen, Rob.

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I get that this will help the Longwood people in the long run, but apropos what others have said, it will take a while for the returning-to-work-and-school crowd to figure this out. The result will be the aforementioned debacle and a half.

The thing about this is that even though the exit off Storrow will be clearer for the Longwood-bound vehicles, the bottleneck is still the overpass and the roads between Storrow and Longwood (particularly the Boylston intersection) so I don't expect much benefit. I think you'd have the same trouble with metered merging on the westbound entrance to Strorrow. The traffic would back up even further into the Fenway than it already does.

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It does seem to be a goofy change. But wait a second, Mr. Sama. I don't know your exact circumstances, but if your wife works at North Station and needs to get home to Belmont, I've heard of this newfangled commuter rail thingy which might let her (and you) avoid Storrow.

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Heh,heh. I just posted that suggestion on his blog. I doubt he'll give it much consideration. Reading through a few of his entries, he strikes me as the sort who might label mass transit as communistic.

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I feel that he loses all his rights to complain about traffic when he choses to take his car when a better option is available.

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According to google, it is 23 minutes by car from North Station to Waverly Square. We know Mr. Sama is finding it a much longer drive than that, so he really should consider other options. According to the Fitchburg time table, it is 17 minutes by train.

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I'm shocked you could even suggest someone from Belmont should take transit - how gauche. I can see Rob's gettting a lot of sympathy here - I'll play Keith Lockhart and you all break out your little finger violins - a one, a two, a three...

Unless Mr. Sama needs his car at work (doesn't sound like it) - he doesn't need to commute by car.

Rob - if you are reading this - other than your convenience - any other reasons you need to commute by car?

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These people who drive cars into Boston from Belmont should be rounded up and put into camps. Imagine the nerve of them!

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"I have little choice but to use Storrow Drive to get home. My wife works at North Station, and I need to pick her up there on days when she works."

You're telling me that theres no other way to get from North STATION to Belmont without having to deal with traffic?

Really?

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The thing that aggravates me the most about this lane change is that while I wait in the right lane to head towards Newton/Watertown, cars zoom by in the middle lane, and then try to merge into the right lane in front of the rest of us who were doing the right thing.

The signage is pretty clear, and warns you about the lane pattern quite a long way in advance. To the mergers: wait your turn like everyone else!

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The signage is pretty clear, and warns you about the lane pattern quite a long way in advance.

Ok, cool then. Please disregard my earlier snark below.

You may have missed that other sign, though -- "Masshole Merge, 1/100 Mile".

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This was an obvious change that needed to happen. Before, the entering cars had to go from a full stop into 50 mph traffic with bad visibility. Not to mention the aggro behavior of commuters -- if you pulled into the left lane to make way for the entering traffic, the maniacs would freak out and switch lanes back right, pass you on the right going 60 and then have to slam on their brakes as they hit the entering ramp traffic.

The result was that cars entering sat there for half an hour, and the traffic backed up onto the charlesbank flyover, and from there blocked up Brookline Ave and back into the Fenway.

The alternative is to tear up a half mile of the esplanade to build a bigger on-ramp.

Of course you still have morons driving on the painted areas, like the old lanes still exist, in their minds at least.

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My personal situation and ability or inability to take the commuter rail in to work does not affect how boneheaded this lane change on Storrow is. The lane change makes sense or doesn't make sense independent of how I commute to work. And for the record, when Storrow was built, the park was extended by landfill into the river to make up for the lost parkland. There's no reason why that couldn't be done again to fix the Kenmore on-ramp.

And while it's not relevant to whether or not the Storrow lane change should be fixed, let me tell you I used to take the red line in to Boston, but it's become too unreliable, so when I got a parking space from work, I took it. Moreover, I don't work at North Station, I work at South Station, and my wife and I commute together. My alternative is for me to take the pike in to South Boston while my wife takes the commuter rail into Boston, which seems silly. Also, we'll need the flexibility to drive when my expected son starts going to daycare. So for a number of reasons, none of which are relevant to to the argument at hand, I drive in to work.

Also, FWIW, I find that people with long commutes to places like Franklin tend to take the commuter rail, while people who live inside the 128 belt tend to drive.

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Though the esplanade was compensated for land lost due to the building of Storrow, I think it is now generally acknowledged that waterfront highways were a mistake. It would probably be a move in the wrong direction to expand it further.

Also, I find your statement about the commuting patterns with the commuter rail to be puzzling, though I am not saying you are not correct, I do not have any statistics. However, it would seem to me that benefits of the commuter rail become more significant with increasing proximity to the city, as traffic and congestion increase. I can see how many people from say, Watertown, would commute by car due to lack of convenient commuter rail access yet close highway access... but why would most people from Belmont commute by car to Boston? Is the schedule too much of a hassle? Reliability? Franklin is a no brainer since the highway route to Boston is much more circuitous than the rail route.

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In my experience I find that to be a leading contributor to people driving to work - if work is paying - it's a freebee and personally I've never met someone who doesn't take advantage of it. I know people from the South Shore who spend up to 3 hours a day in traffic v. about 2 hours on a train - and wouldn't if they did not have that free parking space to take advantage of. I even know people who live and work in the city do this!

While your personal driving habits have nothing to do with fixing the lane - they have a lot to do with your complaining about the problem. Keep in mind that the only reason Storrow is crowded - EVER - is because people use it for commuting - which it isn't designed or intended for. Take away the commuters and literally 40% of the traffic disappears. The remainder are people like contractors, sales people, shoppers etc. who need it for local access (love it or hate it - Storrow serves this function extremely well).

While fill may be a compromise solution to loss of parkland - where will this money come from? We are struggling to pay for the repairs to the Bowker and that is literally falling down. So until we come up with the money - it's down to one lane so nobody gets killed. Do you want to be the car in the right lane carrying your wife and child when a tourist from Oregon underestimates your speed coming around that corner and you plow into him doing 50 or 60 mph? Until you answer yes to that or are personally willing to pay for filling in the river I think you'll have to put up with the traffic or rely on the T (and while it is your choice, taking the T will do your small part in preserving the environment for your son's generation).

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...for *other* people to drive instead of taking the T.

Wait, I see an economics problem. :)

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The lure of free parking... the greatest of all car subsidies. Because it's not really free, it's just a hidden cost that comes out of your salary.

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Worse, it probably also comes out of the salary of his co-workers who haven't yet made it to the top of the waiting list.

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And most good companies (any decent one really) will pay for your monthly TPass instead if you ask

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at an agency I know of convinced the administration to stop giving people parking spots except for the people who need a car every day to do their job. The people with cushy admin jobs that rarely require going offsite no longer have free garage parking spots and when they do need to use their car they have to submit a reimbursement thing for that day's garage parking just like is filled out any time you're asking them to pay a job-related expense.

http://1smootshort.blogspot.com

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I'm all in favor of exposing drivers to all the costs of driving, but I'm wondering how people who were using that free parking reacted.

Were committee members promptly uninvited to bridal showers and such?

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People who work in human services are generally fairly aware of their privilege, at least as it pertains to socioeconomic status and not having a severe disability. You're not really going to have administrators complaining about getting their $400-a-month parking pass taken away when these are people who work closely with the direct care staff who make $10 an hour and with residents of group homes, many of whom only leave the group home when it's in a van with staff. Sure, there are entitled people on staff just like anywhere, but they do recognize it pretty quickly when they complain about some cushy perk ending and then the same day are sitting in a meeting talking about how the agency budget is so tight we have to decide whether to cut out Thanksgiving dinner for the group home residents or lay off the activity leader at the day program. And for the really really entitled ones, then you directly point out "yeah, we're no longer giving parking spaces to people who are able-bodied and don't use their cars at work, because we're trying to be a green agency, and because we'd rather use the $8000 a month to try and keep the job skills program from closing." People who are that unwilling to sacrifice a little to help out really underprivileged people don't usually end up in human services in the first place, because we get half the pay and none of the perks that we'd get doing the same work in a hospital or in private practice. People who are doing the work are doing it largely because we know there's a need.

http://1smootshort.blogspot.com

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I was thinking more in the context of a (non-recession) company, where any money saved would turn into corporate profits and/or bonuses for managers.

The saved money going to better purposes than corporate greed would make a big difference in reactions, before one considers one's relative privilege.

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The problem with painting lines in this state where none existed before is that they never do it right or they do it based on "the book" and not on the drivers' reality.

You should have seen the clusterscrew on westbound Comm Ave when they repainted the lines there and initially sent 2 lanes towards Brighton Ave and only 1 lane stayed on Comm Ave at Packard's Corner. That's probably the way it's drawn up in a "book" somewhere...but the reality is that 2 lanes take the turn and there's not room for parking plus 2 lanes to go onto Brighton Ave. It was REALLY interesting to drive through Packard's Corner for about a week before they had to come out scrape it and repaint it.

I wonder if this is the same situation. If it's "supposed" to be 2 dedicated ramp lanes (based on an "on the book" schematic) but in reality it worked better as 1 dedicated lane for each and a split lane for either/or.

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From what it sounds like they didn't just paint lines, there is a physcial barrier there now to prevent the center lane from staying on Storrow.

I'd love to see the the traffic volume numbers, i.e., whether it's worth giving the priority to Fenway traffic over the Westbound Storrow Drive traffic.

I also wonder if this isn't a ploy to get people like Mr. Sama to use the Pike, instead of Storrow. Frankly, it makes sense to get the Watertown/Belmont/Newton traffic off Storrow and onto the Pike, if possible.

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Theres nothing in the book about the lines on beacon St (outbound) which go from 4 lanes to 2 and a bike lane at the Boston/brookline border.

Cautious drivers shouldnt have a problem with that.

Unfortunately, most drivers are idiots. Kenmore square is very well painted, but some drivers still feel that the second lane from the left can be used to go to brookline ave, even though its obviously meant for beacon st only...

Not that the beacon street drivers have it easy, the lines say 2 lanes, but the parking meter nobody removed makes it defacto 1 after the intersection.

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There are these sign-thingys that alert drivers to use caution due to a new traffic pattern. They usually say, for example, NEW TRAFFIC PATTERN. What a freakin' concept, hunh? They'd be particularly useful when vehicles are traveling at 40-50 mph and their lane is about to disappear. Although granted, chances are they'd just be ignored.

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My personal situation and ability or inability to take the commuter rail in to work does not affect how boneheaded this lane change on Storrow is. The change either makes sense or fails to independent of my personal situation.

And for the record, when Storrow was built, the park was extended by landfill into the river to make up for the lost parkland. There’s no reason why that couldn’t be done again to fix the Kenmore on-ramp.

And while it’s not relevant to whether or not the Storrow lane change should be fixed, I should tell you I used to take the red line in to Boston, but it’s become too unreliable, so when I got a parking space from work, I took it. Moreover, I don’t work at North Station, I work at South Station, and my wife and I commute together. My alternative is to take the pike in to South Boston while my wife takes the commuter rail into Boston, which seems silly. Also, we’ll need the flexibility to drive when my expected son starts going to daycare. So for a number of reasons, none of which are relevant to to the argument at hand, I drive in to work.

Also, FWIW, I find that people with long commutes to places like Franklin tend to take the commuter rail, while people who live inside the 128 belt tend to drive.

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The change either makes sense or fails to independent of my personal situation.

Not true. If Storrow going to 1 lane wide can support 10 cars per minute without slowing traffic down and with you on the road it puts it over the 10 cars per minute, then things will slow down.

Sure, that's a bit of an absurd situation, but if you are one person driving on Storrow at rush hour who could take the MBTA instead...and there are a few hundred just like you, then the collective you's ARE exactly what doesn't let this lane change make sense. To take it into the other extreme, if nobody drove on Storrow Drive, then this lane change would make perfect sense.

The less cars on Storrow, the more this change makes sense. The more people who take the MBTA instead of driving on Storrow, the less cars on Storrow. Your personal decision (and many others like you) to drive instead of take the MBTA is directly correlated as to whether this move would work or not.

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By that logic you should appoint a commissar who gives out special passes to use Storrow based on need alone.

Look, I tried taking the T for two years. But it's absurd for it to take an hour to get home from South Station to Belmont because the Red Line breaks down and the buses don't remotely adhere to their schedules (and constantly break down as well). And besides which, with an infant one needs to be able to be precise about being in certain places at certain times (like getting the kid form daycare) and the T, even when it was better run, doesn't afford that level of precision.

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That's certainly too long for that distance. But have you considered alternative routes? Train to North Station, Orange Line to Downtown Crossing, walk to South Station. That should take about half an hour, max. As for your baby, first congratulations. Second, what do you plan to for daycare? There are many options downtown that would be feasible with the commute I've outlined. I see a lot of stroller commuters, it's pretty common, pretty easy, and gives you that flexibility of being near the kid.

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Instead of a commissar, we should just toll it at rush hour using London-esque technology to bill based on your license plate. You want a 30 minute solution by taking Storrow along with all the other people using it in the same way? Fine, pay for it to be your little commuter expressway 2 hours every day. Then you can even have more say over how the lanes are distributed.

Until then, you're going to just have to lump it with everyone else who flies down it at 50 mph and then gets stuck because it's only 1 lane wide for a portion now.

Don't like it? Go ruin Mem Drive some more.

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Unfortunately it requires legislative approval from the same suburban legislators who thought the gas tax was a bad idea to help support the T (in feeble defense of these legislators the T needs a lobotomy* before more revenue and it sounds like they put the scalpel to the wrong head - or at least it should have been an equal opportunity lobotomy).

*No offense to people with lobotomies intended by comparing them to the T.

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A small detail, perhaps, but the speed limit on this parkway is 40 miles per hour, not the 50 to 60 miles per hour written about in this thread.

If the traffic were kept at 40 mph the entire length—except, of course, that inbound portion where is it 30! mph—and, if the speed were reduced to 30 to 35 mph at the outbound merge from the Bowker, then this part of the parkway would actually work without this bizarre lane reassignment.

If the State actually cared about the speeders on Storrow Drive, the State Police would and could enforce the speed limit.

It's a parkway; it is not Lake Shore Drive, Chicago.

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I think one of the enforcement challenges is that there are no shoulders to use when pulling someone over.

It's technically a parkway, yeah.. meant for recreational vehicles, but nobody actually uses it for such a purpose. That was a term invented to make it more palatable than a commuter highway that will slice through the parks, which is what it actually is today.

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Yes, in the three miles of roadway between Berkeley Street and Allston, there are plenty of places to do enforcement.

Here's a list of only the west bound spots.

1. Just past Dartmouth St: there are three lanes and a pullout
2. Another pullout just past Fairfield, also with three lanes.
3. There is the exit for the Harvard Bridge, northbound. Just because you catch them where they can be pulled over doesn't mean you can't pull them off the highway first.
4. Ditto, Charlesgate West.
5. Pullout just past Raleigh St.
6. Pullout just before the BU footbridge.
7. Pullout just after the BU bridge, itself.
8. Pullout adjacent to the Mass Pike at the Aganis Arena.
9. Pullout adjacent to the Beaconsfield railyards.
10. River St. exit ramp.
11. Clock them between River St. & Western Ave., pull them over any where before the N. Harvard St. exit.
12. Plenty of room at the N. Harvard St. on ramp. or just beyond in the boathouse parking lot.
13. Plenty of room in the striped off portion of Soldier's Field Rd. at Gerry's Landing Road.

It's tricky and would take more than one cruiser, but it could be done. Heavy enforcement for a couple of weeks with quarterly tune-ups would do it just fine.

Would the enforcement slow down the evening commute? You bet. Add a little bit of publicity so everyone knows when the enforcement is going to start.

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