One of the great mysteries of urban life is the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s penchant for blocking a lane on Storrow Drive for events. For events ranging from charity walks to radio station concerts to the Fourth of July celebration, DCR blocks a lane of traffic stretching from the esplanade to at least the first ‘rest pull-off’ on the westbound side of the Storrow.
The impact of the lane closure typically backs up traffic onto the Leverett Connector and back into the tunnel , creating delays of a half hour or more in some instances.
The stated rationale for the practice is visitor safety, with the row of parked cars serving as a barrier between vehicles and participants. In addition, the delays serve as a traffic calming mechanism, reducing vehicle speeds significantly.
The reality is that by turning a chunk of a major thoroughfare (and doing it regularly) into a parking lot, you create massive delays for thousands of travelers. And some of the Esplanade events are rather modest in size. If proportionality is any guide, the costs far outweigh the benefits (the Fourth of July as the obvious exception).
In addition, the area is well-served by public transit and a variety of private parking options, we don’t need to provide more parking on a public way.
If safety is the issue, then some traffic calming in the form of (the already present) state police cruisers should be sufficient. Looking at the most recent event this weekend, the spaces directly in front of the Esplanade were reserved for vendors, who picked up and dropped off materials, thus leaving the supposedly protective barrier area largely vacant for long stretches of time.
This archaic practice seems to have stood the test of time (see previous complaints). It doesn’t make sense and any benefits can be easily achieved without inconveniencing large numbers of drivers.
Mr. Commissioner, Open This Road!
Crossposted at Boston Daily.