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Solutions for the traffic crisis? Globe readers have plenty

Evening rush-hour traffic over the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge.
Evening rush-hour traffic over the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge.David L Ryan/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

The Globe Spotlight Team’s series on our region’s transportation crisis, “Seeing Red,” hit a nerve with readers. Facing some of the country’s worst rush-hour traffic, and grappling with a strained and unreliable transit system, hundreds of Globe readers poured out their perspectives on the problem, sharing their Boston-area transportation horror stories and suggesting ways to break the gridlock.

The Globe received more than 600 online comments on the series, and more than 200 readers responded to requests for proposed solutions and other feedback, including tips and comments e-mailed to commuting@globe.com and a special feedback forum linked from each story.


Here are some of the readers’ solutions, edited, and condensed:

Carrots and sticks

“We haven’t done enough with social psychology to encourage and reward good transportation behaviors. Boston should have a sustainable commuting challenge. Let’s scrap the Safest Driver Competition that the city of Boston introduced this year and replace that with an app that gamifies commuting. Points would be awarded based on mode/distance/location and could be redeemed at sponsoring merchants or donated to charity.”Sophie Schmitt

“Households with more than one car should pay a surcharge. We should increase tolls at rush hour. And add a surcharge on Uber/Lyft at rush hour that goes directly to public transportation.”

Geoff Foley

Family rail discounts

“My husband and I pay a combined total of $756 a month on commuter-rail costs. This does not include parking. We often can’t pay the full cost of a monthly pass upfront so we have to pay for 10-day passes, splitting up the cost of our passes through the month. This has caused an extreme financial strain on our family. There are days when we cannot afford to both ride the train to work, so one of us has to either drive in and play the street-meter parking game, or work from home. If the commuter rail offered a discounted monthly pass for families who commute together on the train, this could ease a lot of strain on families, and some might be more inclined to ride the train.”


Courtney Landers


“There needs to be better, more supported and incentivized work-from-home policies in all areas of government and the private sector. I understand the importance of face time in meetings, but in this age of technology, combined with an ability to track productivity at home, it’s irresponsible to structure the workday for non-essential personnel in such a way that they’re fighting Boston traffic (and contributing to Boston’s carbon output) just to get to an office space to make phone calls and write e-mails.”

Elizabeth Holmgren

“Wait 10 to 20 years until the people in their 30s and 40s now become executives and allow a majority of their employees to work from home. Executives today, who came up in the age of typewriters, desk phones, and water coolers, cannot wrap their minds around the fact that 75 percent of employees today could do their entire job from their couch.”

Robbie Vogel

Regional planning

“Let’s create a new quasi-public state agency that acts as a hub between all of the various modes of transportation available to manage the state’s transportation network. This hub would combine walking, bike and scooter rentals, rideshare companies, buses, trains and subways, ferries, and parking garages. Combine this with a user application that allows people to plan their trips and provides an incentive for advance planning. With all this in one place, users would simply enter their destination and when they needed to get there, and the system would figure out the rest, with all services being paid for at a single point.”


Chris Trudel

“We need north-south public transportation. The median strips of 128 and 495 should have light rail/bus lines with stations at all the exits. Currently if you want to take a train south to north it is almost impossible. All transportation goes into and out of Boston. But we live in a larger and larger area of hybrid urban/suburban greater Boston. If you live on a spoke you must have a job on that spoke. If not, you are guaranteed an over two-hour round trip anywhere.”

Gregory Gonser


“I’m 68 years old and commute 30 miles a day by bike. If I can do it, certainly the younger workers can. But we need many more protected bikeways, and businesses need to provide secure bike parking and locker rooms. A visit to Copenhagen or Amsterdam would demonstrate the viability of building infrastructure for bike commuting.”

Rick Treitman

“There are many free parking lots on the bicycle trails leading into downtown. But parking is forbidden after sunset, so one would need to leave work at 3:45 p.m. to bicycle out to the lot to get out in time. Governor Baker’s response to requests to extend the parking past sunset: nothing. It is not just success that gives us bad traffic. It is also poor leadership.”



Traffic enforcement

“What about actually enforcing our current traffic laws? That would seem to be the least controversial way to make driving much more expensive. I have lived in Boston for 15 years. I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen cars pulled over/ticketed in Boston for running red lights, speeding through a crosswalk when pedestrians are trying to cross, or blocking the box at an intersection. Yet these violations happen every single time I drive or walk anywhere in Boston. I know we are famous for the worst drivers in the country. But that terrible driving is tolerated. If current laws were enforced, driving would be MUCH more expensive. With several $150 tickets per week, maybe some car commuters would see more value in taking the train.”

Keely Boyer

“One easy way to help with traffic flow in the city would be to install cameras at lights to ticket those who cause gridlock at major intersections. Tickets would automatically charge drivers and eliminate issues such as profiling or getting ticket quotas met.”

Paul McCann

Park and ride

“We should have express buses to downtown Boston (and maybe some to Kendall Square and the medical area) from park-and-ride lots at about every other exit on route 128 — and maybe some in other locations between 128 and 495. And the enticement is — the buses aren’t free. Passengers GET PAID to take the buses. Everyone loves to get money. Ridership would go through the roof.”


Mark Seliber

“I’m amazed at how little parking there is to make public transportation feasible. If there were available parking and monthly contracts that made parking and riding affordable, maybe people would.”


Water transportation

“We need to get serious about water transportation. Boston Harbor Now’s Inner Harbor Connector concept is a particularly weak swipe at a very promising transit opportunity. In a harbor city with neighborhoods packed into every nook and cranny around a 40-mile shoreline, and with our traffic congestion problems, a four-stop system that serves wealthy communities exclusively at twice the cost of a T fare is a recipe for environmental-justice embarrassment and risks failure for the same reason water transit has failed in the past in Boston: It is planned as a niche service for special interests and not as real urban transit. Let’s create water transit that’s designed to serve the entire region.”

Chris Marchi

Commuter bus

“Though there are plans to increase the frequency of commuter-rail service into Boston, a potential solution to address the more immediate need is to offer commuter-bus service to complement the commuter-rail lines. These buses would pick up at the commuter-rail stop and serve as an additional option for commuters currently opting to drive themselves.”


Political gridlock

“It seems the head honchos in this state just don’t get it. Governor Charlie Baker, House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, and State Senate President Karen E. Spilka are all in la la land. It’s ridiculous that they get free parking and transportation allowances. How about we charge them market rates for that parking and instead offer a bonus to take public transit?”


Right turns

“I grew up and learned to drive in California, where turning right after coming to a full stop at a red light was legal. I was astonished and dismayed when I came to Massachusetts to find that it was not legal. My amazement recurred through the years as measures to legalize right-turn-on-red were repeatedly defeated in the State House. Opponents feared that geezers with walkers, babies in prams, and little Shih Tzus on leashes would be mowed down in crosswalks on a daily basis. Then the impossible happened: After 20-some years a right-turn-on-red law passed! I couldn’t believe it! Get the booze! Call the hookers! We are gonna paaaar-TAY. But wait. My celebration was premature. Before the measure became law, they stamped out a million “NO TURN ON RED” signs and put them up, well, everywhere. So now you could turn right against a red light except for where you couldn’t, which was everywhere. I lived in Cambridge for 36 years. I am now back in California. We have “NO TURN ON RED” signs here, but they are located where the view to the left is obstructed. I don’t mind those at all. But when the right lane is stacked up unnecessarily at countless intersections all over town, the aggregate effect on slowing traffic must be significant. If I were a Boston politician I’d make some noise about it.”

John Troy

Tips and comments about the Spotlight series “Seeing Red” can be sent to commuting@globe.com.