How long should it take to drive 13 miles? Thirty minutes, maybe less? Sure, if you live in New Hampshire. But if you’re talking about Boston’s bumper-to-bumper, mind-numbing traffic congestion during rush hour, the time spent commuting is closer to two hours. And that’s just on any given business day. Commute times will easily skyrocket if the city’s 2024 Olympic bid wins, delaying drivers and MBTA commuters alike to unprecedented levels.
Boston was ranked eight out of 10 in a 2014 list of the country’s most traffic-clogged cities. As a BU commuter who drives 13 miles to and from school, I sit in traffic for an average of an hour and a half to two hours each way. I commiserate with fellow commuters—students and professors alike. Lately, this swapping of commuter horror stories has turned to the now looming prospect of how gridlocked this already busting-at-the-seams city would become if we were to win the Olympic bid.
And drivers aren’t the only ones worried. Those who rely on public transportation are dreading the idea, as well. With the recent hit to the MBTA following the string of 2015 blizzards, bus and train commuters have vocalized their skepticism about whether Boston’s transit system could support the colossal influx of people for the Olympic Games. As posed in a February 4th Boston Globe article, “How can an aging, chronically under-funded transit system handle the world’s biggest sporting event, if it can’t even cut through a rough New England winter?”
The 2012 Summer Games in London attracted 590,000 visitors. How can we support more than half a million more T riders, rental car drivers and taxi passengers if we can barely get around the city now? Community members will have opportunity to ask such questions and voice concerns at upcoming public meetings about the Olympic bid, the next of which will take place on March 31 at Harvard Business School.
In lieu of setting its sights on hosting the world’s largest, most prestigious sporting event, the city of Boston should instead aim for a more realistic goal—expanding its infrastructure and roadways to satisfactorily support the 1.2 million people who already occupy the city during work hours.
If we do host the 2024 Olympics, commuters sitting in four to five plus hours of traffic will look back on today’s two-hour commutes with wistful, rose-colored glasses. As for me, I’ll stay home and watch the Games on television.
-Alison Leonard, Boston University Graduate Student