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Boston Has Worst Traffic In Nation, According To New Rankings

BOSTON (CBS) – If you sit in it each day, this may not seem like news to you - our rush hours are the worst. A newly released scorecard puts Boston in the worst spot for time wasted in traffic. The hub also topped the annual list last year.

The yearly rankings by INRIX found that Boston area drivers lost an average of 164 hours each year sitting in traffic. That's almost seven full days.

How does that measure up to other major cities? In Washington D.C. drivers lose about 155 hours a year; 138 hours in Chicago and Seattle; New Yorkers waste 133 hours in traffic each year; and 128 hours in Los Angeles, which is famous for its traffic backups.

Zakim Bridge
Zakim Bridge (WBZ-TV)

"There's no doubt that congestion is an issue right here in Boston," Boston Mayor Marty Walsh wrote in response to the ranking. "Our road network is one of the oldest and densest in the country, we're one of the only cities with a major international airport right by downtown, both our economy and population have been growing at a steady clip — and now rideshare companies and delivery-on-demand services have added a whole new layer of vehicles."

Walsh said the traffic trouble stretches beyond the city, and is a regional issue. "We need a more comprehensive and reliable regional public transit system — as well as transit-oriented housing in the suburbs — to give more commuters a viable alternative to driving."

He outlined a number of improvements that are underway within city limits, including exploring adaptive traffic signals, better accessibility for bike riders and MBTA buses, and intersection improvements.

"We do have traffic no question about it and we are working at it every single day," Walsh said.

One solution already being tested in the Seaport are adaptive traffic signals. It is software that changes the timing on the lights based on traffic to ease congestion. "It can't just be the signals, but we also filed legislation to look at camera technology to block the box and try and change drivers behaviors," Mayor Walsh said.

Blocking the box

He's talking about photo enforcement. The purpose is to use cameras to catch drivers who pull into intersections and get stuck there during a red light. Another term is called "blocking the box".

Chris Dempsey is the Director of The Transportation for Massachusetts Advocacy Coalition. He says congestion pricing is also being considered. "We could have off peak discounts for driving over the Tobin Bridge or on the Pike outside of rush hour. Part of the reason it's so bad is because we don't provide those services," Dempsey said.

Folks who live and work in the city say they plan their day and some cases even their living situations based on the traffic problems. "I'm basing my whole entire apartment situation on traffic, that's how bad it is," Christina Nardella said.

Dempsey says many other cities like Seattle and Minneapolis are adding jobs and at the same time reducing traffic congestion. "Investing in transit, giving people more options and giving people more incentives is key. And Greater Boston needs to be doing all three of these things," Dempsey said.

The INRIX study put a dollar figure on all of those hours lost in traffic, estimating that Boston area drivers lost nearly $2,300 a year because of congested roadways.

When it came to the worst individual roads for traffic, Boston only had one in the top ten. I-93 from Boston to Braintree ranked as the seventh worst stretch of road, with an average daily delay of 13 minutes.

WBZ-TV's Paul Burton contributed to this report.

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