News you knew: Boston traffic stinks

Just as Bob Dylan said you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, there was probably no need for another study to tell Boston drivers that traffic here is worse than bad. But that’s what we got, and whether it ends up being a helpful prod or just cause for more teeth-grinding, the report set off a fresh round of talk about our roadway gridlock.

Boston traffic during the peak morning and afternoon rush hour was the worst of any major US metropolitan area last year, according to the analysis by Inrix, a transportation data firm. The report said Boston traffic congestion added 164 hours to rush hour drivers’ commutes last year.

Some questions were immediately raised about the study and whether it accurately captured where Boston stood. Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack suggested the ranking was faulty. But she seemed to agree that getting too tied up in methodology details about tie-ups is a bit beside the point: By any reckoning, traffic congestion has become a growing problem in Boston whether we rank an unenviable No. 1 on some metric or fifth or eighth.

“We can’t ignore congestion,” Pollack told the Globe. “My biggest concern is that people and businesses have made it clear that we are now experiencing a level of congestion that they are struggling to cope with. That’s what tells me we have to focus on this problem, not if we’re number one or number eight or number 10.”

Chris Dempsey of the advocacy group Transportation for Massachusetts tells NECN’s Sue O’Connell we should take concrete steps to address the problem, including expanding the use of dedicated bus lanes and at least piloting variable-price tolling on roads. He said reducing peak-time road use by 5 percent would yield a 20 percent decrease in commute times.

Gov. Charlie Baker has been cool to that idea, and he vetoed a measure last year that would have provided a discount to Massachusetts Turnpike drivers during off-peak hours. A Globe editorial today touts variable-priced tolling as an idea worth trying, but it says we might also get some relief from old fashioned approaches like carpooling.

Improving service on the MBTA certainly wouldn’t hurt, and the Baker administration says that’s a priority. But it’s projected that a recently proposed T fare increase will drive some users out of the system and, presumably, into cars.

Former state transportation secretary Jim Aloisi, in a Globe op-ed, argued that any T fare increases should be matched by increases in the state gas tax and fees for ride-hailing apps Uber and Lyft. It’s not only a matter of equity, he says, but a way to acknowledge that various transportation modes are all connected and that changing the costs, in isolation, for one will have spillover effects on the others.

Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby suggested yesterday that the answer to the region’s traffic woes is to respond to the clear preference people have for driving by building more highways.

That might work in Phoenix, but does he have a master plan for where within Route 128 those new highways would be built? As his paper’s editorial this morning said with some understatement, “Even if adding highway lanes would help, there might not be anywhere to put them.”

— MICHAEL JONAS


BEACON HILL

Jim Smith offers up a 1 percent solution for giving minorities a chance to get into the marijuana business. (CommonWealth)

The state’s film industry and its legislative backers want to make the state’s controversial film tax credit permanent, a move that would go against the trend of states pulling back from the subsidies. (Boston Globe)

Some city councilors in Gloucester want state lawmakers to put the 5-cent bottle deposit on bottled water and nips of liquor. (Gloucester Daily Times)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

A civil trial is underway in Barnstable Superior Court  to determine whether an Arkansas woman defamed an Orleans attorney by accusing him of bribing judges and other lawyers on social media. (Cape Cod Times)

Attorney General Maura Healey’s office has found that Kingston selectmen violated the state’s open meeting law in dealing with a former selectman. (Brockton Enterprise)

Officials in Worcester and Fitchburg are clamping down on sober houses opposed by local residents. The legal question is whether the houses should be treated as single family residences or lodging houses. (Telegram & Gazette)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

President Trump says he’s “not happy” with a congressional deal on border security that fails to deliver the money he’s demanded for a wall, but he suggests another government shutdown won’t happen. (New York Times) A Milford woman whose son was killed by an illegal immigrant driver urged Trump to hold out for the full $5.7 billion he has demanded from Congress to build a border wall. (Boston Herald)

The Washington Post reports on a New York cigar club meeting during the 2016 presidential campaign between Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and a Russian operative that the paper says is a key piece of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

ELECTIONS

Howie Carr says would-be presidential candidate Seth Moulton is yesterday’s news in today’s progressive-leaning Democratic Party. (Boston Herald)

A Herald editorial rips Elizabeth Warren for “irresponsible oratory” over the weekend that suggested President Trump might be in jail by the time the 2020 election arrives. We’re trying to recall if any other prominent official has ever made offhand calls to lock up a rival.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Boston Foundation research indicates Massachusetts would have lost population without immigrants coming into the state. (CommonWealth)

EDUCATION

A MassINC study calls out local communities for not doing enough to set standards for student achievement. (CommonWealth)

This is an “unusual year” for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education because no new charter schools are moving ahead from the application stage, Commissioner Jeffrey Riley said Tuesday.

Lawyers on both sides of the racial discrimination lawsuit against Harvard University are expected to make their final arguments before the federal court today. The school is accused of holding Asian-American applicants to a higher standard. (Associated Press)

TRANSPORTATION

It’s 30 miles between exit 2 and 3 on the Massachusetts Turnpike and a fight is shaping up over whether to add a new exit in between. (MassLive) A Berkshire Eagle editorial says the decision-making process over a new Turnpike exit, with the cost estimated between $29 million and $34 million, won’t be smooth and is likely to take a decade.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Activists concerned about its safety want federal regulators to delay a decision on renewing the Seabrook nuclear power plant’s license. (Boston Globe)

The state attorney general’s office has found that members of the Scituate Conservation Commission were within their rights to not accept public comment prior to voting on a landscaping proposal, and subsequently not providing copies of the plan afterward. (Patriot Ledger)

Richard Wallace, the state’s director of pipeline safety, will retire after 30 years with the Department of Public Utilities. His retirement follows less than half a year after the pipeline disaster in Merrimack Valley. (WBUR News)

A Washington Post editorial laments the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back efforts to phase out incandescent light bulbs.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Suffolk DA Rachael Rollins said she has reached out to lawyers for Vanessa Tyson, who alleged that Virginia lieutenant governor Justin Tyson sexually assaulted her at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, to say her office would consider initiating an investigation of the matter. (Boston Globe)

Bristol County DA Thomas Quinn and members of the Massachusetts State Police are announcing a new initiative to track down and detain the area’s most wanted fugitives. (Herald News)

Scot Lehigh says there is good reason why US Attorney Andrew Lelling seems ambivalent his office’s appeal of a lower court dismissal of corruption charges against two Boston city hall aides. (Boston Globe)

The recent Supreme Judicial Court decision upholding Michelle Carter’s involuntary manslaughter conviction for cajoling her boyfriend to commit suicide could put people into legal jeopardy if they engage in end-of-life discussions or encourage reckless behavior, according to Carol Rose, executive director of ACLU Massachusetts. Northeastern Law School professor Daniel Medwed said Carter would have long odds appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court, but she could also ask for a new trial. (WGBH News)

Some students and staff at Harvard are not happy that Ronald Sullivan, a Harvard law professor and faculty dean at one of its residence houses, is part of Harvey Weinstein’s defense team. (Boston Globe)

A 12-year-old boy who allegedly threatened to “shoot up” a school in Methuen has entered a diversion program instead of going into the juvenile justice system. (Eagle-Tribune)

MEDIA

Newspaper and magazine consolidation, with its accompanying centralization of business functions, may work in a world where advertising is the key revenue stream. But as news organizations become more reliant on subscriber revenue, a more decentralized approach may be needed. (Columbia Journalism Review)