Poll: Boston traffic congestion to return or get worse

Survey indicates most voters favor reduced or no transit fares

A NEW POLL indicates three of every four Greater Boston voters think traffic will return to previous levels or get worse as the state reopens, and most are in favor of reducing or eliminating bus and transit fares to take more drivers off the roads.

The poll of 670 voters was conducted by the MassINC Polling Group on behalf of the pro-transit Barr Foundation between May 21 and May 28. Of the 670 voters surveyed, 418 lived in the city of Boston and 252 lived within or adjacent to Route 128.

With transportation advocates warning that the state should not return to pre-pandemic traffic patterns, the poll indicated 74 percent of voters think that’s exactly what will happen. The survey found 42 percent of respondents feel traffic will be about the same as before the pandemic and 32 percent think it will be worse.

Personal decisions tracked with those broader concerns. Of those polled, 58 percent said they would drive the same and 27 percent said they would drive more as the economy reopens. Conversely, roughly half of those surveyed said they would use public transit the same and a third said they would use it less – the percentage who said they would use it less was 31 percent on subway and 34 percent on bus and commuter rail.

The top two transportation priorities for voters coming out of the pandemic were reducing traffic congestion (95 percent considered that very or somewhat important) and improving public transit (the total was 94 percent).

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.

It seems voters see fare relief as one way of accomplishing both goals, with 84 percent of those surveyed strongly or somewhat in favor of discounting fares for low-income riders and two-thirds of the respondents supporting making buses or the entire MBTA free. In both instances, however, those surveyed were not asked whether they were willing to pay more (in the form of higher fares or taxes) to support reduced or free fares for others.

The MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board earlier this week authorized the development of a pilot to test discounted fares for low-income riders that could start as early as June 2022 if the successor board to the control board gives its approval.