State officials offer Thanksgiving travel outlook

By Katie Lannan
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

Projecting a 15 percent to 20 percent increase in traffic volume as Thanksgiving approaches, with more than 1.5 million people moving through Logan Airport and a "very unsettled weather pattern," state officials are recommending travelers take additional time and caution this week.

"There will be a lot of extra travelers out there over the next few days and this week, and because of the nature of holiday travel, many of these travelers will not be everyday users of our transportation facilities. So if you are traveling, it's especially important to pay extra attention to your surroundings," Massachusetts Department of Transportation highway administrator Jonathan Gulliver said said at a press conference Monday at MassDOT's South Boston highway operations center.

All road construction will be shut down to accommodate the anticipated traffic volume, with crews mobilizing only for emergency responses, Gulliver said.

"For those of you who may not follow the forecasts as closely as many of us up here do, we are also in a very unsettled weather pattern over the next few days, so we are preparing for a wintry mix tomorrow, and then again it looks like we might get some of the same this weekend into Sunday," he said. "We have sufficient materials and resources and equipment to deal with the weather, but we also need the help of the traveling public."

Gulliver said free coffee will be available for motorists at 18 service plazas across the state, including on the Massachusetts Turnpike, from 10 p.m. Thursday through 5 a.m. Friday.

Coffee and fresh air can help a drowsy driver, but the best solution is to "pull over to a safe location and take a quick nap," said Jeff Larason, director of highway safety in the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security.

Larason urged drivers to keep their cellphones out of sight to avoid distractions. He cautioned that safety officials are also focused on drowsiness and impairments like cannabis – the first two adult-use marijuana retailers in Massachusetts are set to open Tuesday – and alcohol.

"Many of you might know that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is commonly known as Blackout Wednesday," Larason said. "It's a time when a lot of people go out and celebrate. What we encourage people to do is if you're going to be celebrating over the holidays, plan ahead, get a ride share, a taxi, or use the MBTA so you can get to and from your destination safely and avoid the challenges of impairment."

MBTA General Manager Luis Ramirez said the T will run a Sunday schedule on Thanksgiving, with a few exceptions including "enhanced" service levels on the Silver Line 1 route that serves the airport, and a regular weekday schedule on Wednesday and Friday. Commuter rail will have added capacity on selected trains leaving Boston Wednesday afternoon, he said.

Drivers traveling this week will find gasoline prices three cents lower than last week, with regular unleaded averaging $2.71 a gallon, AAA Northeast announced Monday. The average price per gallon a year ago was 18 cents lower, at $2.53, according to AAA.

MBTA increases service capacity for Sox celebration Wednesday

By Chris Triunfo, State House News Service


The MBTA on Wednesday will run enhanced subway service throughout the day and provide additional capacity on certain commuter rail lines to accommodate the crowds expected to throng the city to celebrate the Boston Red Sox and their World Series win.

Subway services will operate at rush-hour levels from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. Wednesday also marks the celebration of Halloween, which will make commuter services especially busy, according to MBTA General Manager Luis Ramirez.

"Because the parade coincides with Halloween, we fully expect Wednesday to be a busy day in Boston and around the region," Ramirez said in a statement. "So, as a reminder, we’re asking people to please stay informed of service information. We want everyone to have an enjoyable day, so please be safe, be respectful, and enjoy the special day on Wednesday."

According to the MBTA, approximately 200 Keolis and commuter rail personnel will be at key stations to assist with wayfinding, boarding, and schedule information. Bikes will not be allowed on any commuter rail trains.

The parade begins at 11 a.m. at Fenway Park and will run on city streets near the following subway stations: Hynes Convention Center, Copley, Arlington, Boylston, Park Street, Downtown Crossing, and Government Center.

MassDOT issues guidelines for holiday weekend travel

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) is advising Memorial Day holiday travelers to plan ahead, utilize MassDOT’s many travel “real time” tools to plan trips, and use public transportation if possible to travel between destinations. 

On Memorial Day, May 28, Registry of Motor Vehicle customer service locations will be closed, as are all state offices. The High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane on I-93 will not be deployed, and all MBTA subway, trolleys, commuter rail, and buses will operate on Sunday schedules.

 “We traditionally see a high number of drivers on roads Memorial Day weekend,” said MassDOT Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver. “Many drivers begin to travel the Thursday before Memorial Day, and the actual holiday is when many drivers choose to return home. Anyone planning to drive should try to travel in off-peak hours, should build extra time into their trips, and may want to check the MassDOT Go Time app or other apps to help with decisions on which roads to take.”

MassDOT will be shutting down scheduled roadway construction activities effective at noon, Friday, May 25; scheduled road work will resume after 11 p.m. on Monday, May 28. 

The HOV will be deployed as follows:

• Friday, May 25, the HOV lane opens on I-93 southbound from Boston to Quincy at 1 p.m. and closes at 8 p.m.

• On Monday, May 28, Memorial Day, the HOV lane will not be deployed.

Free coffee will be served at the 18 MassDOT service plazas on Memorial Day, from 10 p.m. Monday night through 5 a.m. Tuesday morning.

The CapeFLYER will once again run trains from Boston to Cape Cod starting on Memorial Day weekend. Service will begin on Friday, May 25, and operate on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays until Labor Day.

During the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, the CapeFLYER will provide free service for active service members and veterans, in partnership with the 14th annual Troops in the Spotlight event. The full schedule and more information are available at www.capeflyer.com. 

The MBTA has also released the following information regarding travel on Memorial Day:

• All subway and commuter rail lines, busses, ferries, trackless trolley, and The Ride will operate on a Sunday schedule.

• The CharlieCard store at Downtown Crossing in Boston will be closed.

For full MBTA schedule details, please visit: http://www.mbta.com/holidays/.

MBTA cancels commuter-boat service for Thursday

The MBTA this afternoon posted its anticipated service schedule in advance of a significant storm that's expected to arrive tonight. Unlike during the "great" Blizzard of 1978, Hull's commuter-boat service will not run tomorrow. 

Longtime veterans of Hull's water transport system are fond of bragging how they survived the boat run from Boston to Hull during the February 1978 snowstorm by which all successor blizzards have been measured.

Back then, the service was run by a private company. Now it's operated by the MBTA and, for better or worse, those  who make the decision whether the boat ought to run are far more circumspect.

Here's the MBTA's press release released this afternoon:

 In advance of tomorrow’s severe winter weather event, the MBTA has announced its service schedule for Thursday, January 4.

According to the National Weather Service, approximately 8 to 12 inches of snow are expected across the MBTA system tomorrow with sustained winds of 35 mph and more and gusts as high as 65 mph in some areas.

The MBTA will operate regular weekday service on the Red, Orange, Blue, and Green Lines. The Mattapan Trolley Line will be replaced with dedicated shuttle buses, servicing all stations. As delays and other service changes may occur, customers are urged to connect with the MBTA by visiting the MBTA websitesigning up for and checking T-Alerts, downloading the Transit app, and following the T on Twitter @MBTA as well as the commuter rail at @MBTA_CR.

Regular bus service will operate, though delays may occur and buses that have “Snow Routes” will operate on their designated Snow Route. To find a list of buses with Snow Routes, customers are urged to visit www.mbta.com/winter.

The MBTA Commuter Rail will operate a reduced schedule in which some trains will not operate. Online schedules and schedules available within the commuter rail app will be updated to only show trains that operate during a reduced schedule. Trains shaded in yellow on printed schedules will not operate. Express trains may make local stops as necessary.

Ferry services will not operate on Thursday, January 4.

Since 2015, the MBTA has invested over $100 million to harden vehicles and core infrastructure including track, switches, power systems, and signals; developed a multidisciplinary approach when responding to disruptions in service using teams with the skillsets, materials, and equipment to address a wide variety of potential issues and scenarios; and contracted with vendors for snow clearing along key bus routes and T facility/employee parking, freeing up T personnel to concentrate on core system functions.

Emergency crews comprised of multiple disciplines are on standby to respond to instances of broken rail, issues affecting the power systems, and potential switch problems. These teams are staffed and equipped to respond to a range of issues in order to expedite repairs. Power crews will continue to inspect overhead wires on the Blue and Green Lines, looking for ice buildup. Ice cutters have been installed on vehicles to remove ice buildup on catenary wires on the Blue and Green Lines. Overnight, trains will be stored in tunnels to protect against sustained sub-freezing temperatures; trains that cannot be stored overnight will be exercised to prevent or detect icing up of doors, brakes, and propulsion systems.

No Hingham boat service this week could mean more riders in Hull

The MBTA posted this banner alert on its website today:

Hingham Commuter Ferry service will be suspended to/from Hingham throughout this week due to emergency dock repairs.  

The lack of commuter boat service in Hingham will bring added ridership to Hull. Local commuters should allow for extra time in the morning as there may be Hingham riders who don't know the protocol and who are seeking to park at Pemberton.

Fortunately, it's school vacation week, so many of the high school parking spaces should be available for use.

– Susan Ovans