Why is Boston Traffic So Bad? Your Question Finally Answered

An early 2019 report crowed Boston with the title of the worst rush-hour traffic congestion in the U.S.A. Other reports have reached similar conclusions and proved that not only is Boston’s gridlock particularly terrible, but that commutes are outrageously long. Why exactly does Boston have such horrible traffic? We have the explanation on exactly what led to Boston’s reputation for having such terrible traffic. 

1. More than “Boston”

Boston isn’t just “Boston”. The city of Boston is part of a densely packed confederation of cities and towns that stretches for dozens of miles, and that united encompasses more than four and five million residents. In fact, if the Boston area were it’s own city rather than a collection of municipalities, it would be more populous than any U.S city other than New York. 

2. Relatively Excess and Cheap Parking 

Several municipalities in the Boston region, including the city of Boston itself, give away free resident parking permits excessively. Or, they charge relatively low fees such as $25 per household for an initial parking permit. Furthermore, metered parking in Boston is some of the cheapest available in urban America. Condo and apartment developments often include parking as well. 

3. Constantly Increasing Population 

The population of Boston is expected to grow from 685,000 to 709,000 by 2030. Surrounding municipalities like Cambridge and Somerville are growing as well. Based on these recent trends, the Boston region could contain 5 million residents in the next few years. A large population will most likely lead to more drivers, and more cars on the road from car-hailing applications like Uber and Lyft.

4. The Demand for Car Hailing Apps

Car-hailing applications like Uber and Lyft have been growing in popularity throughout Boston and the surrounding areas. The number of rides completed through car-hailing applications increased about 25 percent in 2018, to 81.3 million, compared with 2017, according to a recent report from the state Department of Public Utilities. 80% of these rides began in Suffolk and Middlesex counties, which include most of the Boston region, including the city of Boston itself. In fact, 42.2 million, or more than half of all car-hailing rides, began in Boston.

Along with the popularity of Lyft and Uber growing, Amazon Prime has become super convenient for Boston residents who utilize Instacart and other home delivery services, which can drop off household goods with just a few mouse clicks. Although these vendors and services bring convenience to people’s lives, these businesses translate to more cars on the road, and more congestion in daily Boston traffic.