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The Truth About Driving in Boston

Dundee, Michigan
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The Truth About Driving in Boston

We will be in Boston next April, so I have been reading up on visiting the Boston area and have purchased a few books on the subject. One recurring theme in all of them is that they say to avoid driving in Boston at all costs. Their reasons include: expensive and hard to find parking, narrow, curvy streets that change names and become one-way with no warning, and aggressive drivers, just to name a few. We have visited several large cities in recent years such as Atlanta, Philadelphia, Detroit, St. Louis and Nashville and have never had a problem with any of them, not even downtown Atlanta at rush hour. My question is this: from your experiences of driving in other large cities, is Boston really a whole lot worse, as all of the travel books say? On one hand, I am not concerned about it and think that we'll be fine, while on the other hand, the dire warnings that I keep reading have me a little bit freaked out and worried that we don't know what we are letting ourselves in for if we choose to drive in the city. We are staying in Plymouth due to both financial considerations and a desire to be closer to other destinations such as Cape Cod and Newport, RI, so we are either going to have to drive ourselves into Boston or ride public transit, especially since we have tickets to a Red Sox game for one of the days that we are going to be there.

Thanks!

New York City, New...
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1. Re: The Truth About Driving in Boston

All those travel guides are not off-base. To give you a basis for comparison, I've lived -- and driven -- in both Boston and New York City; Boston is a worse place to drive than NYC, and far, far worse than the other cities you've mentioned with which I am familiar (Philly, St. Louis, Nashville).

It's not a matter of just the the congestion and parking problems. The signage is gawdawful horrible for newbies -- a real problem when trying to navigate, e.g., streets which reflect Boston's colonial heritage and poorly designed access/egress routes gerrymandered into the scene. And a regrettable number of drivers aren't merely "aggressive". I'm always started at how frequently they run red lights, and then there's what my family has long called "the Massachusetts drift"... the driver in front of you sidles into your lane without pause, a turn signal or a look in his/her rearview mirror which would otherwise tip you off as to his/her intentions.

You're on vacation & staying in a place which is served by public transportation, so do yourselves a favor... sit back, relax, and take the train or bus from Plymouth.

Dundee, Michigan
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2. Re: The Truth About Driving in Boston

Wow! Sounds awful, to say the least. I appreciate your candid report, and I believe that with you and a multitude of travel guides all saying the same thing, the sane thing to do would be to heed your advice and take the public transit. Thanks for the heads up.

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3. Re: The Truth About Driving in Boston

Hi Sultana- I agree with CockleCove; at midnight you'd probably be fine, it's the attitude of drivers that makes everything more stressful in congested traffice- it you don't stomp on the gas within 1 second of the light turning green (which you can anticipate by watching the opposite light as it turns red), you'll be honked at vehemently, if you're not in the correct lane to make a turn you have to be extremely aggressive to wedge y ourself into traffic (people are rarely kind enough to let you in if you don't force yourself), and city blocks are also very short in addition to being poorly marked, so the experience is generally furll of surprises (which way do we go now?), overwhelming and blood-pressure raising. Throw in some construction route changes, pedestrians who ignore most common sense (they count on you to not hit them when they cross on your green light), and a festival or parade that closes off streets, it is not worth your stress. You'll enjoy your trip in to Fenway much more on the train!

Dundee, Michigan
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4. Re: The Truth About Driving in Boston

bostonbased,

Thanks for your input as well. I am beginning to get the idea that I definitely DON'T want to drive in Boston. My hubby is usually better in situations like that than I am and maintains a cooler head, so we've worked out a system where, when in a large city, he drives and I read the directions. However, in this case, it just doesn't sound worth it. I think that the public transportation has to be the best way to go. I am a very nonconfrontational person, so if someone got in my face I would probably cry, lol.

Thanks!

Boston...
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5. Re: The Truth About Driving in Boston

Hi Sultana,

I agree with the other posters--Boston is not an easy place to drive. As a lifelong Bostonian, I have witnessed things that are mindblowing to say the least (driving the wrong way against traffic on Congress street downtown during rush hour!) I commute every day on a bicycle, and never is a Bostonian driver more enraged than when a cyclist competes for his beloved lane! Ah, but aren't these the things that give our city character. Maybe. Maybe not. Nonetheless, definitely take the Green Line T to Fenway. Not only is the traffic horrendous, but the parking is upwards of $50! Sure, you'll be crammed in like a sardine but for $1.25 (although in April the fare will be around $1.75) you can't beat it.

Just a suggestion: if you have a few hours to spare challenge yourself and come up to Boston during off-peak hours and see for yourself how hard it is. Just remember to share your lane with a certain cyclist! Enjoy.

Dundee, Michigan
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6. Re: The Truth About Driving in Boston

Healey,

Your post made me smile : ) Not to toot my own horn (pardon the awful pun!) but I consider myself a pretty courteous driver-I let people into my lane, I STOP for red lights, and, as a sometimes cyclist myself, I definitely give bikers a wide berth. Actually, I know it's probably cliche', but here in the Upper Midwest, even in car-crazy Detroit, most of us are pretty courteous drivers. I guess it's the Midwest mentality, or else it's simply the fact that we don't have anywhere all that exciting to go, lol. I despise tense situations and avoid them, so again, thank you, and we'll wave to you from the T.

Western...
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7. Re: The Truth About Driving in Boston

Sultana,

It looks like you have already made up your mind to use the "T" (good choice), but I thought you'd like to check out a web site that has been mentioned a few times on these boards. It is both informational and amusing. www.celebrateboston.com. You can check out comments on driving in Boston under the "Boston Cuture" link.

Much of Boston was layed out in colonial times, and with the increase in population over the years, drivers have become more aggressive in order to get where they want to go. I think it is a survival instinct that comes out after years of frustration!

Have a fun trip... it is a fun city!

Westernmass

Dundee, Michigan
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8. Re: The Truth About Driving in Boston

Westernmass,

What a great website! I had never heard of it before but I really enjoyed it. Thanks!

Sterling, VA
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for Washington DC
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9. Re: The Truth About Driving in Boston

Glad to hear you're using the T! As a friend of my husband's put it driving in downtown Boston made him feel like "a rat in a maze"!

Boston
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10. Re: The Truth About Driving in Boston

Ok driving in Boston is no picnic, but... is it that much worse than in NYC, DC or Philly? I've driven in those places and... big city driving is big city driving, no?

I guess, as others have pointed out, our driving manners are only part of the problem in Boston. We *do* have horrendous roads, a paucity of signs, and one-way streets that make it impossible for you to retrace your steps. Potholes are horrendous.

The worst is with the current airport run-around... Thanks to the tunnel that caved in on that poor woman, we now have to go round in circles to get to the airport. As if that's not enough, once you get redirected (via exit 23...you loop around near Haymarket), there's this entrance into the tunnel? There's a little "Speed Limit 25" sign next to it. I ignored it the first time I went through and went zipping over this horrendous bump---it shook the car frame, made me worry over the alignment. Horrendous. Now, I obediently slow down (and often get the horn from the driver behind me who can't see why I'm slowing down)....

I think the T is the best bet for anyone visitng the city but...if you've driven in New York City, you shouldn't have trouble in Boston.