T notes: State preps for 100,000 visitors to casino on Sunday
MassDOT gathering data on shutdown of I-93 HOV lane
A correction has been added to this story.
THE STATE’S HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATOR says he is preparing for 100,000 people to show up for this Sunday’s opening of the Encore Boston Harbor casino, although officials at Wynn Resorts say they are expecting far fewer guests.
A spokesman for the Las Vegas-based casino company said in an email that the firm is anticipating 20,000 to 30,000 guests through the course of the day after the facility opens at 10 a.m. on Sunday. On a daily basis, the spokesman said, the company is anticipating an average of about 23,000 guests – slightly less mid-week and slightly more on weekends.
Jonathan Gulliver, the highway administrator, said Wynn Resorts officials provided different numbers during a recent traffic meeting with state and local officials, He said Wynn officials said they were projecting 100,000 visitors to the casino this Sunday and 50,000 a day on average for the next month.
“I would put it on a par with that,” he said. “Again, I think their qualification right is that everything is the best estimate. It will be a wait-and-see approach to see how many people actually show up.”
The casino has 3,000 parking spaces on site and 700 across the street and at another site in Everett. Wynn Resorts is running a $1 million advertising campaign to urge people to take public transit, bus shuttles, the casino’s water shuttle service, bikes, or walk.
Gulliver said he expects congestion to be heavy at times on Sunday. “I think it’s going to be like a typical event. You’re going to have moments when it first starts up where you’re going to have some very serious congestion,” he said.
MassDOT gathering data on shuttered HOV lane
Facing heat for shutting down the high-occupancy-vehicle lane on I-93 heading southbound into Boston, state transportation officials are promising to gather and share data on whether the extra highway capacity is helping to ease congestion on the Tobin Bridge.
Jonathan Gulliver, the state highway administrator, said the HOV lane was shut down in a bid to give drivers a way to avoid congestion on Route 1 caused by construction work on the Tobin Bridge and the stretch of elevated highway in Chelsea leading up to the bridge. Gulliver said research indicated the HOV lane had additional capacity that could be used to smooth out the traffic flow if people shifted from Route 1 to I-93.
After meeting with officials from Transportation for Massachusetts and the Conservation Law Foundation, Gulliver agreed to gather data on the HOV shutdown and its impact. Starting on Wednesday, he said, the state plans to start doing traffic counts to see what the impact has been. Gulliver said the state hopes to compare vehicle passenger counts prior to the closing of the HOV lane and after, to see if the Route 1A toll gantry shows a reduction in traffic volume, and to monitor bus travel times on I-93.
“It seems to fly in the face of what we’re trying to do – ease congestion,” she said. “This is causing significant delays for our bus customers.”
Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said data will guide any decision about the shutdown of the HOV lane, which is currently scheduled to be shut down through the remainder of this year and next year. (An earlier version of this story, based on remarks at the meeting, said the lane would be shut down just during construction season.)
RTAs have high cost per ride
The state’s 15 regional transit authorities as a group spent an average of $8.83 on every ride they provided in fiscal year 2018.In a briefing for the MassDOT board, Astrid Glynn, the state’s rail and transit administrator, said total ridership was 30.4 million while total spending was $268.5 million. Brian Shortsleeve, a member of both the MassDOT board and the T’s Fiscal and Management Control Board, drew attention to the average cost of a ride.
State transportation officials are working with officials at the RTAs to set personalized ridership targets and also to raise fares by small amounts on a regular basis. Until fairly recently, many RTAs hadn’t raised fares in years.