Bikers don’t get everything they want on Longfellow

RMV wait times remain long; trash piles up along roads

THE LONGFELLOW BRIDGE between Cambridge and Boston will open at the end of this month without a much wider bike lane sought by cyclists, but state officials said they would be willing to reconsider their decision if traffic on the bridge justifies a change.

Bicyclists have been pressing state officials for last-minute changes to the bridge’s traffic configuration to provide protected and much wider bike lanes. Last month, they submitted a petition with 3,000 signatures to the Department of Transportation board and the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board seeking some sort of barrier between cars and bikes. They also pushed for the elimination of one of the two lanes carrying cars coming from Cambridge into Boston, at least on the uphill section of the bridge, to allow for an expanded bike lane.

State officials have agreed to put up flexible posts to separate cars from bikes and expanded the width of the bike lanes from 5 ½ feet to 6 ½ feet on the side of the bridge running inbound to Boston and 6 feet on the outbound side. But state officials did not go along with the request to eliminate one of the inbound car lanes on the uphill portion of the bridge and use that space to expand the bike lane even more.

A rendering of the traffic configuration on Longfellow Bridge.

Stacy Thompson, executive director of the advocacy group Livable Streets, said bicyclists are worried that safety problems could develop on the uphill portion of the bridge heading into Boston as faster cyclists bunch up behind slower cyclists. She said a wider bike lane is justified because 30 percent of the vehicles currently using the bridge’s roadway are bicycles.

Jonathan Gulliver, the state’s highway administrator, said anecdotal evidence suggests the bicyclists may be right that they deserve a greater chunk of the roadway. But he said he wants to gather baseline information on usage once the bridge opens on May 31 and then go through a formal, public process if a change in traffic configuration is deemed to be warranted.

RMV wait times remain long

The Registry of Motor Vehicles is not meeting its goal of serving 80 percent of customers in less than 30 minutes, and it looks like it may be quite awhile before that goal becomes a reality.

The RMV shifted to new software on March 26 and also began offering so-called Real IDs, federally mandated driver’s licenses that can be used to gain admittance at airport checkpoints and federal buildings starting in October 2020. The new technology has slowed service and the availability of the new licenses has attracted thousands more customers to visit RMV offices, driving up wait times.

According to data presented by Registrar Erin Deveney to state officials on Monday, the highest percentage of customers receiving service in less than 30 minutes between March 26 and May 9 was 63 percent on April 26. Deveney said her agency is now treating the target of serving 80 percent of customers within 30 minutes as a long-term goal.

Deveney said some of the service problems haven’t been the Registry’s fault. She said three other databases the RMV is required to use to prove people are who they say they are have gone down at various points.

In some cases, however, wait times may be even longer than what the Registry is reporting. Tim King, a member of the MassDOT board, said he renewed his license on May 7 and waited 30 minutes just to get a ticket placing him in a que for service, which took another 30 minutes. The Registry measures wait times from the time when a ticket is obtained.

“What you’re referring to is the hidden wait time,” said Devaney, referring to King’s experience.

Deveney’s report to the Department of Transportation board included some statistical anomalies. System-wide, she said, 46 percent of customers renewing their license have chosen the Real IDs, while 54 percent have opted for standard IDs that are perfectly fine as driver’s licenses but won’t be honored at airports and federal buildings come October 2020. She also said the split on license preference depends on where the customer goes to pick it up. At AAA branches that offer Registry services, 85 percent of customers getting a license obtained the Real ID. At RMV offices, only 39 percent of customers renewing their license got the Real ID.

Trash time on state’s roadways

With spring finally here, state transportation officials are finally getting a handle on all the trash tossed along roadways over the course of the winter.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Jonathan Gulliver, the state’s highway administrator, said his staff has already collected 18,000 bags of trash. If historical patterns are followed, he said, more than 90,000 bags of trash will be picked up over the course of the year. He said the trash pickup efforts take employees away from their regular duties.

Joseph Sullivan, a member of the MassDOT board and the mayor of Braintree, urged Gulliver to explore ways to enforce litter laws along the state’s highways. “Sometimes you’ve got to shame these folks,” he said.