Ridership on the MBTA has yet to recover as motorists take to the streets leading to traffic jams at pre-pandemic levels, forcing police to turn on blue lights with speeders topping the list of offenders.
“The traffic has been going crazy over the past two months,” said Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes, chairman of the major city police chiefs in Massachusetts.
“During rush hour some cities have become stranded,” Kyes said, adding that some safeguards are even worse than before the coronavirus.
A Herald analysis of more than 440,000 citations distributed so far this year statewide shows that speeding tickets lead the way to nearly 20% of the total. No inspection decals, don’t stop or give way, and drive yapping on a cell phone come next.
The T, however, is plagued by empty ghost trains.
Transit agency traffic dashboard shows that 1.2 million trips were made on an average weekday in February 2020 just before the pandemic landed.
Last month, this figure fell by nearly 56% to 531,000 journeys on average during the week, calculates the dashboard. July was worse, with 515,000 average commuter trips. Bus ridership is increasing in the metro and commuter train.
“People still work from home or on hybrid schedules and just don’t feel the need to take the T,” said Mary Connaughton, director of government transparency at the Pioneer Institute. “What’s more, people are opting for the road rather than risking their health. “
The proliferation of cell phones and other electronic gadgets has given police another tool to help control traffic now that the hands-free state law is on the books, with fines of up to $ 500. Almost 7% of tickets issued so far this year have gone to drivers caught using an electronic device while driving, records show.
Connaughton and other officers said reluctance to take the T would only increase wear and tear on the roads and traffic jams. As a result, many politicians try to get people off the road and put them on public transport.
Connaughton, who like so many others on a hybrid work schedule, added that if the traffic jam on the Mass Pike got worse, she could get back on the commuter train.
The Pioneer Institute is also traffic monitoring T and the table from the monitoring agency shows that the public transport system is on life support.
The state legislature has a few transportation bills on the table, including one that takes action to reduce wrong way accidents, others that would increase penalties for tampering with an ignition interlock device and establish a commission to review state laws on impaired driving.
As for the rebound of the MBTA, that’s another story.
The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation warned earlier this month that the T could face a “tax calamity” that would require $ 1.25 billion in new annual revenue just to meet operating and capital needs.
That doesn’t include $ 2 billion in federal stimulus money already paid to the COVID-era stimulus cash agency.
Meanwhile, mayoral runner-up Michelle Wu offers to make riding on the T free. Wu’s rival for Boston’s top office, Annissa Essaibi-George, on Nov. 2 calls for a “more thoughtful approach.”
Amy Sokolow of the Herald contributed to this report.