When Traveling From Somerville to South Station, Take the MBTA

A T traveler won the annual Rush Hour Race to find out what the quickest commute to Boston is.

Photo via Steve Annear.

Photo via Steve Annear

Riders may not think so, but when it comes to traveling from Somerville to South Station during the busy morning commute, taking the MBTA is the quickest option.

On Tuesday, May 7, an MBTA passenger went up against a cyclist, runner, in-line skater, and driver during the second annual “Rush Hour Race” from Davis Square to Boston’s crowded transportation hub. Each participant had to obey the rules of the road while the train passenger dealt with the headache of the crowded subway system and the chance of a delayed ride.

But in the end, the MBTA proved to be the most efficient way to get from point A to point B on a typical Tuesday commute, with the the in-line skater coming in second, followed by the cyclist, who took a long and winding path through Kendall Square, Downtown Boston, before eventually arriving at South Station. As for drivers, well, it took the longest to finish the race to the final destination point with an almost hour-long commute.

This year’s event changed formats from last year’s inaugural experiment, where the race, from Davis Square to Kendall Square, featured a cyclist, driver, and T rider, by adding a runner and inline skater. Last year, a cyclist proved it was easiest to navigate the streets of Greater Boston in order to get to work by taking a bike from Somerville to Cambridge during the busiest travel times in the morning, but he was no match for a Red Line rider this time around.

The annual “Rush Hour Race” was hosted by the LivableStreets Alliance, a transportation advocacy group that pushes for the use of alternative modes of travel on city roadways, in conjunction with the city of Somerville.

Below are comments from each participant, as well as the time it took them to travel their respective routes to work:

Commuter: Mihir Parikh
Mode of transportation: MBTA
Time to get to destination: 25 minutes
Best part of the commute: “It was walking into the Davis Square station just as I heard the announcement that the train was arriving. It happens more often than you think. It will usually say it’s approaching. Not on the way home. That never happens on the way home.”
Worst part of the commute: “Today there wasn’t a worse part. It was empty [on the train] and it’s usually a lot more packed. But on any other day, it’s the delays from random switch problems or signal problems. But truth be told, it’s the T, these things happen, so I don’t usually get too frustrated.”

Commuter:  John Wichers
Mode of transportation: Roller blades
Time to get to destination: 28 minutes
Best part of the commute: “The weather today was just wonderful, and it’s a nice way to get some exercise on your commute in. It’s also one of the fastest ways to get in, and reduce traffic congestion. I usually run, but sometimes I skate.”
Worst part of the commute: “There are always one or two drivers that aren’t paying attention, and they start lurching because they don’t realize there are other people on the road besides cars. The cyclist are much more aware than the drivers are, so traveling with them makes for an easier commute.”

Commuter: Andrew Bengtson
Mode of transportation: Bike
Time to get to destination: 30 minutes.
Best part of the commute: “The best part was, you know, I love commuting by bike, and the camaraderie is cool. At one point, I can;t remember where, but there was about 15 cyclists in front of me. it was awesome. Also it was a beautiful day. So all of that was good.”
Worst part of the commute: “There were a couple of spots where I hit some long red lights, so that delayed me. Some frustrating parts, I bike through the year, so winter when it’s cold or rainy, that’s frustrating because all of the gear [I have to wear].”

Commuter: Joshua Grzegozewski
Mode of transportation: Running
Time to get to destination: 39 minutes
Best part of the commute: “I normally run to work, but this time I doubled the distance for the route. Usually I run down Highland [in Somerville] and finish up in Kendall Square at my office. Now that I have an office with a door it gives me a place to hang my sweaty stuff, and we have a gym at my office so I can shower when I get there. Then I am fresh for the day, and I got a work out in. Running home is actually better, because I’m on my schedule, and I don’t have to worry about the T, or missing a bus stuck in traffic. It takes me less time to run home then it does to take the T.”
Worst part of the commute: “Worst part of running—I run year round—I would definitely say the worst is in the winter when you have hidden ice pockets, or what you think is ice, but is really slush puddles. Or the un-shoveled sidewalks. Today was perfect, though.”

Commuter: Chris
Mode of transportation: Car
Time to get to destination: 50 minutes
Best part of the commute: We assume it was either the air-conditioning, or the radio sing-alongs.
Worst part of the commute: Because the driver took off almost immediately after getting to the destination (most likely because he couldn’t leave his car in a parking space too long, or he was already late for work), we are going to go ahead and say the traffic jams from Somerville to Boston were the biggest headache for him.

  • Tom

    Davis Square to South Station is directly on the T. What about something more realistic, with a walk on either end for the T rider?

  • Brenda

    Good point Tom. I would add a transfer on the T for interest.

  • Mark Kaepplein

    Clearly the greatest public benefit would be for government to reduce the time wasted in the most popular travel modes, with commensurate economic benefits to workers and the state alike. What has been done to speed traffic flow since last year? How much faster would the same trip have gotten from a year ago? Has government reduced unhealthy stress experienced by most commuters?

    • Charlie

      MassDOT is in the process of widening I-95 to 4 lanes as well as rebuilding and expanding the I-95/I-93 interchanges in Canton and Woburn. They also have done smaller projects to reduce bottlenecks on intersections that are particularly problematic. But in general, expanding capacity for cars has historically just resulted in more traffic and more congestion within a few years.

      The most effective way to reduce congestion is to introduce congestion pricing, where drivers pay more to drive a peak times. This has been shown to reduce the number of cars on the road at those times, speeding up traffic flow. The second thing is to invest and expand transit, walking, and bicycling facilities. By giving people real options, people who don’t necessarily want to drive but don’t have any other option will be able to choose one of those other options, taking more cars of the road and reducing congestion for everyone else.

  • http://profiles.google.com/jfro73 J J

    The T was lucky. In fact, I was at JFK riding to South Station at 8:40 with 15 minute delays due to switching problems when it was announced that there was a disabled train at North Quincy on the southbound side; Meaning that winning train or one before or after went down and that’s a real reflection of how the T runs.