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7 Boston-area transportation realities that didn’t really exist 10 years ago

Uber, bike-shares, extended Green and Silver lines, a bigger Logan, and more—transit sure has changed since 2010

Boston Globe via Getty Images

A lot has changed in Boston-area transportation since 2010, not least the volume of traffic. A Boston Globe report from November 2019 found that there were 300,000 more cars and trucks registered in the region than at mid-decade, for instance.

Some of the biggest transit-related changes of the past 10 years have contributed to this jump in volume. Others not so much. Buckle up for a look at the seven inescapable transportation realities that didn’t really exist when the calendar clicked over on New Year’s Eve 2009.

The back windshield of a car making its way through a downtown, and there’s a U sticker on the windshield. Boston Globe via Getty Images

Uber, Lyft, etc. This is probably the most tangible and the most impactful of the realities. App-hail rides simply didn’t exist in 2010. They exist now—oh, yes they do. App-hail companies completed 81.3 million rides in Massachusetts in 2018, a 25 percent increase from 2017, according to state records. More than half originated in Boston proper, with Cambridge the next likeliest start.

That’s a lot more cars on the roads, and has led to efforts to better regulate app-hail usage, including at Logan Airport.

People waiting to board a bus. Boston Globe via Getty Images

Silver Line extension. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority launched Silver Line service to and through Chelsea from South Station in April 2019. The five-mile extension was the first for the Silver Line since the Dudley Square-South Station route was added in 2009, and came as the MBTA in general beefed up bus service.

Railroad tracks heading into a city, with construction equipment to the right. Boston Globe via Getty Images

Green Line extension. The granddaddy of Boston-area infrastructure projects, the 4.7-mile extension of the Green Line through Somerville to Medford, complete with new stations, really got going this decade. There was an official groundbreaking—the long-planned, long-delayed project’s fourth by one count—in June 2018, and construction is proceeding apace.

What changed this go-round? The necessary funding is in place, and a lot of development along the line is now hinging on its completion in 2021 or thereabouts.

Bike-shares. In 2010, there were no bike-share systems in the Boston area. There are now at least three. The region’s oldest bike-share, Bluebikes, launched in July 2011, and now has some 3,000 bikes available at 400 stations in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Brookline, and Everett. Then there are the smaller Lime and Ant services, with the former in particular providing app-unlocked electric battery-powered bikes in 13 cities and towns. Still no widely available e-scooters in the region though.

A street sign showing the distances for bikers to certain Boston destinations. Shutterstock

Bike infrastructure. As the 2000s ended, Boston was congratulating itself on starting to build a biking infrastructure. There were no on-street bike facilities, including lanes or city-owned racks as recently as 2007, and not even 30 miles of on- and off-road bike paths by 2010.

The city and the surrounding region picked up the pace, though, during the past decade; and bike infrastructure is just about omnipresent, if still aspirational in some places. Boston proper has added 65 miles of bike lanes to its streets in the past dozen years, for instance, and, in early 2019, Cambridge became the first U.S. city with a municipal law mandating construction of a network of permanent, protected bike lanes.

A cavernous airport terminal with flags hanging from the ceiling and people at ticket counters. Shutterstock

An expanded Logan Airport. New England’s busiest—and getting busier—transportation hub entered the decade smaller and less-connected than it will exit.

In particular, the Massachusetts Port Authority, the airport’s owner, expanded Terminal B 75,000 square feet and renovated a further 70,000 by 2019 to connect all of its gates post-security—no small feat given that Massport split Terminal B into two sections pre-security five years before. What’s more, Massport expanded Terminal E, the airport’s international hub, 96,500 square feet and renovated 200,000 more to accommodate more passenger traffic from the newest generation of wide-body jets. This work wrapped in 2017.

Demolition work on an old, brutalist-style garage in downtown Boston. HYM Investment Group

Conventional parking garages, R.I.P. When 2010 dawned, ample garage parking, especially in downtown Boston, was a given—some of the most plentiful and the cheapest in the United States among major cities. Now, because of a series of trends that includes skyrocketing land values and the rise of app-hails (see above), that given has been taken. Conventional parking garages throughout Boston have been partially demolished and largely repurposed, and the city and the state have barely approved any new standalone ones for construction.

The car is not dead in Boston. Far from it. But a rethinking of its role in the region’s urban fabric has left the conventional parking garage by decade’s end at the side of the road.


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