T notes: Boston congestion ranked worst in US again

Study recommends income-based commuter rail fares

FOR THE SECOND YEAR in a row, Boston was ranked the most congested urban area in the United States by the transportation analytics firm INRIX.

The company, which relies on data gathered from a variety of sources, including smartphones and GPS devices, said Bostonians spend 149 hours a year sitting in congestion, primarily at rush hour. That was a slight improvement over the report covering 2018, which indicated Bostonians lost 164 hours.

Chicago ranked second, followed by Philadelphia; New York City; Washington, DC; and Los Angeles. The top six US cities all had lost hours due to congestion that were above the national average of 99 hours a year.

While Boston had the overall worst congestion, none of its individual roads ranked in the top 10. Los Angeles had three of the top 10 congested roads, including the top two. New York City had two roads in the top 10, ranked third and fourth. Chicago had two of the roads and Atlanta, Austin, and Tampa Bay each had one.

Boston ranked ninth in the world overall, trailing such cities as Bogota, Columbia; Rio de Janeiro; Mexico City; Rome; Paris; and London. Bogota drivers lose 191 hours a year due to congestion, according to the INRIX report.

Study urges income-based fares on commuter rail

A new study says the best way to promote fare equity on the commuter rail system would be to charge riders based on their ability to pay and not by moving stops in higher-priced zones into lower-priced zones.

The study, conducted for the Legislature by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, said including more commuter rail stops in the lowest-price Zone 1A (where prices match the $2.40 subway fare) would disproportionately benefit upper income and white riders. By contrast, so-called means-tested fares would help low-income riders wherever they live.

The study suggested one way to reduce the jump in fares between Zone 1A and Zone 1 would be to lower Zone 1 and Zone 2 fares gradually or hold Zone 1 fares steady when fares are raised overall. The Zone 1 fare is currently $6.50 and the Zone 2 fare is $7. The study also recommended pilot projects to see if reducing fares would increase off-peak and reverse-peak travel on the commuter rail system.

New part developed for Orange Line cars

MBTA officials are trying to address a recurring problem with the new Orange Line cars by manufacturing a new part that would improve the vehicle’s stability as it turns.

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.

Last Monday, the T during a routine inspection discovered a problem with the so-called bolster components on 12 new Orange Line cars.  The cars were withdrawn from service the next day, the third time that has happened since they were first launched.

Working with CRRC, the vehicle manufacturer, and parts suppliers, T Deputy General Manager Jeffrey Gonneville said a retrofit part was developed that should be installed and tested this week.

“We are not ready to commit to when the trains will go back into service, but certainly we are optimistic they will not be out of service much longer,” Gonneville said.