Navigation Apps Bring More Traffic to Previously Quiet Streets

Due to the rapidly growing usage of Google Maps, WAZE and other navigation apps, once-quiet, residential streets on Beacon Hill are now seeing unprecedented increases in traffic as they become common crossovers on the most recommended routes.

“Neighbors are struggling to adjust to the new traffic patterns…and there are no simple solutions,” said Ben Starr, chair of the Beacon Hill Civic Association Traffic and Parking Committee. “Streets that don’t have signals or many signs are now seeing more traffic.”

For instance, Starr said an Uber driver using WAZE headed down Charles Street who intends to turn right onto Beacon Street off Charles Street would be instructed to take a right onto Mt. Vernon Street before another quick right onto River Street, which only has one traffic-sign. What the app fails to take into account, however, is that this route sends drivers directly by Hill House, a popular destination for neighborhood children.

Myrtle Street is also a popular crossover street on some navigation apps, despite the high concentration of children often found at the Myrtle Street Playground, neighbors told Starr at the Feb. 8 Traffic and Parking Committee meeting.

Other problems arise when drivers are distracted using navigation apps in traffic, and because the routes aren’t adjusted to reflect real-time changes in traffic patterns, Starr said.

And while WAZE has a customer service number that allows residents to log in complaints concerning problematic routes, Starr said whether the company actually adjusts their directions accordingly remains purely a matter of conjecture at this time.

Meanwhile, Starr points to restrictions that prohibit commuters from turning left turn from Storrow Drive onto Revere Street between 8 and 10 a.m.  – a measure meant to discourage commuters from cutting through the quiet, residential side-street on their way to work.

He wonders whether the city can make similar infrastructure changes, such as adding stop signs and traffic lights in an effort to slow traffic down at points of heavy congestion, but said the Traffic and Parking Committee is also now looking beyond Boston for answers.

“This issue is bigger than Beacon Hill; it’s happening all over the city and in the suburbs, too,” Starr said. “We’re working with other communities to see what kinds of solutions are out there.”

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