BOSTON (WHDH) - “Where are all these cars coming from?” asked Trixie Burke, of Charlestown, as she pumped gas on a recent November afternoon in Boston. With heavy traffic in and out of the city these days, that’s a question many drivers are asking.
If you feel like traffic has gotten worse and that rush hour seems to stretch on longer, you’re right.
7News took a closer look at the numbers and found the total miles driven in Massachusetts has increased by eight percent from 2011 to 2015, the most recent year for which numbers are available from the U.S. Department of Transportation. That’s a jump of 4.5 billion miles per year.
“People here in Massachusetts are simply driving more miles,” says Mary Maguire, spokeswoman for AAA Northeast.
The number of crashes that tie up traffic is increasing too — up 20% since 2010. And the slowdowns aren’t just during what used to be considered rush hours.
“A lot of people are out there trying to alter their commute times to battle the rush hour situation,” says Maguire. “That has actually created some pockets of traffic later in the morning, earlier in the afternoon, later in the evening.”
7News found that over the last five years on a number of key roadways, traffic has increased significantly during off-peak times, according to traffic count data from the MassDOT. The Mass Pike at Boston University saw an increase of nearly 40 percent from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays. On 128 in Randolph, midday traffic rose more than 20 percent, and on the Expressway at Southampton Street, it’s jumped 15 percent.
Why are so many more drivers on the roads now?
Experts say a booming economy means more people live here and low unemployment rates mean more of them have jobs to get to.
“The fact that the economy has improved and more people are back at work means that more people are out on the road doing the daily commute,” says Maguire.
One more factor clogging the roadways? A big increase in crashes caused by distracted drivers.
“Whether it’s the smart phone, whether it’s the in-dash technology, we know that we have more multitasking in the car,” says Maguire. “That is leading to more crashes, more distraction, more fender benders.”
Many drivers we talked to say they’ve noticed the traffic increase, but have little choice but to keep driving anyways.
“I turn the radio up and listen to audio books,” laughed commuter Henry Sias. “That helps to ease the pain a little bit.”
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