“The car is no longer king in Boston,” the late Mayor Thomas Menino said a decade ago. Given the pre-pandemic studies showing that the region’s clogged roadways are among the worst in the country, the car seems to have done okay since that pronouncement.
But with traffic ramping up as Covid-19 restrictions ramp down, Boston-area voters say they would like some pandemic-driven changes to continue, including more space for biking, walking, and outdoor dining, even if it comes at the expense of cars.
The poll, by the MassINC Polling Group, surveyed 670 registered voters who live in communities within or bordering Route 128. Of the 670 voters, 418 were from the city of Boston. Sponsored by The Barr Foundation, the interviews were conducted between May 21 and May 28.
More space for outdoor seating and dining drew the most support with 83 percent and 79 percent, respectively. Creating more bike lanes, separate from car lanes, drew 75 percent in support.
“We know street space is a premium in Greater Boston, and so we prefaced these questions by telling voters these changes would mean less space for cars,” Richard Parr, the polling outfit’s research director, said in a statement. “It’s clear voters are looking for ways to put street spaces to a wider set of uses.”
The poll also asked about the MBTA, which saw ridership plummet during the pandemic. Commuters are slowly returning to the public transit system as vaccines lessen the spread of coronavirus.
In the poll, 84 percent said they favored discounted fares for lower-income residents; 67 percent said they would make the MBTA buses free to all; and 65 percent said they would be willing to make the entire system free to ride.
Voters also said they expect the congestion to come back since they plan to drive more (27 percent), while a third said they wouldn’t ride the T as much.
Overall, car and bike ownership stayed largely steady last year, with the poll finding “no evidence of a surge in purchases of either.”
Asked how many cars their households own or lease, 46 percent said one, 30 percent said two, 9 percent said they had three or more, and 14 percent said none.
Nearly half of voters have worked from home every workday since the start of the pandemic; 20 percent said they work from home a few times a week, and 4 percent said a few times a month. Asked how often they would prefer to work from home once the state fully reopens, 30 percent said every day, 30 percent said a few times a week, 6 percent said a few times a month, and 12 percent said “never.” As to working at home, 17 percent said it was “not an option.”