BOSTON (CBS) – WBZ Traffic Reporter Rick Simonson sees it all every day. He started reporting on traffic for WBZ in 1997 and currently sees two major roadway headaches day in and day out.
Route 93, he says, traditionally goes back to Route 495 all the way down to the O’Neill Tunnel. “The other side, the Expressway,” he says, “is the same thing. It’s nine and a half miles of crawling traffic from Braintree to the Tunnel.” Simonson also says the commutes are longer now. “I can remember when the commute was over at 8:45. Done. That’s it. Maybe a little slow on the old Central Artery. Now, it’s after 10 o’clock and we still a big backup on the Expressway and Route 93 is still slow from just below Route 128 coming all the way into town,” says Simonson.
Given the situation, some commuters go to great lengths to avoid the commuter crawl. Don Lake lives in Danvers and works in Boston’s Financial District. His company, VeliQ, is headquartered in Europe. “I come in early because I don’t have a lot of patience for traffic. I jump in my car about 4:30 or so and I’m in my office by 5:00-5:30,” says Lake.
Lake saves time on his drive, but parking is another element of his commute that he wrestles with. “It takes me as long to walk to my car as it does to drive home. By the time I get out of that parking lot, I will have spent 25 minutes, which is about how long it takes me to get home with no traffic,” says Lake. He says his involvement in after-school sports makes getting home on time a priority. “There are hundreds and hundreds of adults who have to be home on baseball fields and on soccer fields at 5:30 in the afternoon, and the worst feeling you could have is knowing that those fields are loaded with kids and you’re sitting in traffic on 128 or on Route 1 or 93, and you left an hour and a half to make a half hour ride and you’re not going to be there on time. It’s unpredictable and that’s very frustrating,” he says.
Steve Crummey is Executive Vice President of VeliQ. He lives in Cohasset and his commute is on board a boat. “I get on the ferry usually at 7:15 or 7:45. I have my Wall Street Journal, my smart phone and two cups of coffee and I’m in my office 35 minutes later. What’s the problem with the commute?” he chuckles. Crummey says he’s hard pressed to even call it a commute.
Sam Wang has been working on boats in Boston Harbor for decades. Currently, he’s the captain of the Ruth E. Hughes, one of the Hingham commuter ferries that Crummey boards every day. “I’ve been out here since 1983. I have seen all kinds of hurricanes. But the Hingham Commuter Boat, we never cancel. Only sometimes, when the Harbor gets so cold it ices up, and then we have to cancel,” says Wang.
Last year the MBTA opted to keep its South Shore Commuter Boat service despite the Greenbush line, much to the delight of the ferry’s regular customers. Boston attorney Chris Keough has been taking the Hingham ferry daily for 25 years. “I hate driving and I hate traffic,” says Keough. He also says the service has evolved over the quarter century. “The older boats can be fun, especially with the crew, but the catamarans are something that need to be experienced as well. The biggest ones hold 400 people. They have big screen T.V’s and a full bar and breakfast in the morning. It’s very, very comfortable,” says Keough. He adds he gets a lot of work done on the boat and sits with the same people all the time.
Julie Litwinowich agrees with Keough’s assessment of the ferry. She’s been commuting from Hingham for three years. She moved to the South Shore from San Francisco and found the ferry boat option to be a pleasant surprise. “It’s nice. I can check up on work e-mails and personal e-mails. I can read, I can relax. I can have my coffee and listen to music. I think its really important because I think a lot of people don’t budget ‘down’ time into their day. They don’t unwind,” she says.
Litwinowich also says she gets teased at work. “I think they think it’s like a private yacht or something. They will say ‘there’s Julie going off to the boat, like I’m going on a cruise or something,” she laughs. But not all public transit modes have that cache.
More on commuters’ public transportation options and plans to upgrade service coming up in my next report.
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