Speed Patterns on Tobin Begin to Change

Speed patterns on the Mystic/Tobin Bridge have been universally flipped since the COVID-19 pandemic hit and commuter congestion dried up, with lower speeds during the day and higher speeds during the afternoons and nights.

Speeding has been a problem statewide on roads that are emptier than normal, causing a great deal of accidents on the roads. The Mystic/Tobin has been no different as speeds have increased due to the lack of what was normal bumper to bumper congestion. Even so, those increased speeds are beginning to ease up as more people head to work and the Bridge becomes more utilized by commuters.

“The largest change in speeds occurred during what are traditionally considered the Peak Commuting times (AM Peak= 6-9am; PM Peak = 3-7pm),” read a report from MassDOT that came out this week. “During these times the peak difference in average speeds experienced were 40% for the afternoon Peak in May and 23 percent for the morning in April. During the off peak afternoon and evening non peak times the average increase in speeds were around 6-10 percent greater than last year.

“The largest change in speed is seen in the average speed simply because this is the area where the largest increase can occur,” it continued. “During the peak hours vehicle speeds are significantly lower than free flow speeds and due to the decrease in volumes, free flow speeds are able to be achieved during more times throughout the day.”

According to that data, on the Tobin, speeds in April increased the most in the afternoons, with speeds up by more than 200 percent between 3-6 p.m. on average. The highest was at 5 p.m. on the northbound, with a 264 percent increase in speeds. The morning speeds in April were relatively small gains in comparison on the Northbound side. However, on the southbound side, speeds inbound in April were up significantly between 5 a.m. and 2 p.m. The largest increases were between 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. At 8 a.m., speeds were up 88 percent in April.

In May, northbound speeds in the afternoon had increased even more from noon to 8 p.m. The largest increases were at 4 p.m. when speeds in May were up 277 percent over last year at the same time. In general, speeds northbound in May were up more than 200 percent between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. over last year.

That was a little different in the mornings, though.

Speeds southbound in the mornings began to slow down from April, a little bit, though 8 a.m. still had an 87 percent increase in speed over last year. However, compared to April, May’s numbers are consolidated southbound in the mornings, with increased speeds just within a three-hour window rather than many hours.

MassDOT used the RITIS platform to gather the speed data while also collecting data on traffic volumes, which also remain down significantly. They will continue to monitor and publish the data as things continue.

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