BOSTON – I know I probably sound like a broken record, but the traffic in Boston is absolutely abysmal. One of the major factors for vehicular congestion in the city is the atrocity that is the MBTA. Fortunately, Governor Charlie Baker and Mayor Marty Walsh are on top of the MBTA problems and solutions seem to be in place to irrevocably improve the public transportation system by the year's end.
One factor that is separate from the MBTA, however, is the general congestion that is taking place on the streets of the city. For many, this is just a way of life. (Just ask residents of Los Angeles, who have mostly given up any hope that they will be able to travel to a grocery store and back in less than an hour.) But there are solutions that could help fix the traffic problems. They just might not be all that desirable.
In a recent congestion report from Baker, he singled out the possibility that "managed lanes" could come to Boston and help improve the flow of traffic. Downplaying the idea of tolls across the board, Baker instead thought that tolled express lanes could be a critical piece of alleviating the city's immense congestion.
These tolled express lanes would basically charge a small fee to drivers if they wanted to use that lane and avoid a thick amount of traffic. According to Baker's philosophy, though, the people who would be willing to pay for these managed lanes would obviously reduce traffic for themselves, but they would also clear up congestion for all other drivers.
Tolled express lanes have been implemented in many other cities before, including the aforementioned Los Angeles. While it has not seen too much success in that Californian hub, there are examples of cities where it has been effective. For example, after being implemented in Atlanta, Georgia, the congestion reported a thirty percent increase in the speed of traffic.
Currently, the major hurdle for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to clear to implement these fee-based managed lanes is the fact that it is unlawful to remove a lane of a highway or a road and replace it with something else, a la the tolled lane. Instead, MassDOT officials would have to approve a number of highway expansions in order to justify the existence of tolled express lanes.
At the moment, the proposed solution from Baker seems like a more likely option than not, but MassDOT has their work cut out for them to initiate this process.