Everything You Need to Know About Driving in Boston

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As the biggest city in New England, Boston, Massachusetts, is the hub of many industries and home to the Logan International Airport. Traffic is worst during rush hour, which starts around 4:00 pm on weekdays and can last as late as 7:00 pm.
From its vibrant sports rivalries to its arts culture and world-renowned universities, Boston is an incredible city known as the gem of New England. And with over 680,000 residents, there are sure to be plenty of drivers on the road.
Whether you’re making your way through downtown traffic to see the Red Sox play or are just passing through Boston on your way to Cape Cod, we can help you navigate Boston’s busy roads. We’ll cover traffic conditions, local driving laws, and ways you can prepare for driving in Beantown.
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What is driving in Boston like?

Since Boston is one of the oldest US cities, it should be no surprise that its first roads were not built with cars in mind. Out of 100 major American cities, Boston was rated the
18th worst for driving
in a survey that examined the cost of car ownership and maintenance, traffic and infrastructure, road safety, and access to vehicles.  
In addition to low ratings in the “vehicles and maintenance” and “traffic and infrastructure” categories, here are some other elements to expect when driving in Boston.

Road infrastructure

The modern city of Boston is only partially on a grid system, with some streets reflecting the design needs of 17th-century settlers rather than residents of today. Boston residents are familiar with the winding, crooked streets that curve and jumble around their city. While grids exist, they don’t typically align with north-south or east-west directions. 
However, certain neighborhoods—particularly Back Bay, Dorchester Heights, and South Boston—were rebuilt or redeveloped to incorporate a grid system, making them easier to navigate than other areas of Boston. 
It’s advisable to familiarize yourself with road directions in your area so you won’t get lost in Boston.

Parking

Boston uses metered parking throughout the city, with meters typically active Monday through Saturday from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm. To pay for parking, you may use quarters, a credit card, or a Boston parking app called
ParkBoston
—check for a decal on the meter indicating that you can use the app. On Saturdays and holidays, you can park for free. 
Parking meter costs range in price across different neighborhoods. In Back Bay and the South Boston Waterfront, you should expect to pay $3.75 per hour. In Bulfinch Triangle, Fenway/Kenmore, and D Street in the South Boston Waterfront, parking is usually $2.50 per hour. However, this holds true only for certain streets in Bulfinch Triangle. You may also park a motorcycle at any parking stall for $0.50 per hour
Lastly, it’s important to know the meaning of different meter appearances in Boston and be on the lookout for colored domes on parking meters. A red dome means the meters are not in effect currently, while a yellow dome means the metered space is also used as a loading zone throughout the day.
Whether your meter has a dome or not, be on the lookout for any regulatory signs, including the decal that allows you to pay with a ParkBoston. 

Weather 

Boston is known for warm summers and cold winters—snow and ice in particular can make driving complicated. Here’s what you can expect from the hot and cold seasons in Boston:
  • Summer: The improved weather means more drivers and more tourists on the road. You can expect Thursday and Friday to be the worst days of rush hour, with many local drivers headed north to New Hampshire or south to Cape Cod for weekend getaways. 
  • Winter: Winter weather can make driving more dangerous. Additionally, parking in Boston is more difficult in the winter, particularly if there’s been a big snowstorm. Pay attention to weather warnings and be aware that you can typically reserve your street spot for 48 hours during a snow emergency. 

Traffic and transportation options in Boston

Since Boston’s streets are not consistently in a grid pattern, they can sometimes be confusing to navigate. Additionally, roadways can get congested and traffic jams are common, so you shouldn’t fully trust a GPS’s estimated arrival times. Give yourself some wiggle room when commuting across Beantown.
Here are the worst times to drive in Boston:
  • 6:00 am to 10:00 am: If you’re trying to get into the city, avoid the morning rush hour.
  • 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm: The evening rush hour in Boston can last until 7:00 pm, and Thursdays and Fridays are typically regarded as the worst days.
  • Game days: You’ll also see a lot of traffic around arenas and venues on certain days—so if the Sox, Celtics, or Bruins are in the playoffs, you’ll want to avoid the areas around Fenway Park and TD Garden.
You can tune in to
WBZ NewsRadio 1030
for traffic updates in Boston.

Should I rent a car in Boston?

Renting a car in a big city has pros and cons. On one hand, having a car makes it easier to navigate a new place, but driving in a major metro area can also increase the risk of accidents, theft, and vandalism—not to mention congested roads from so many drivers in the area. 
Public transportation may be a better bet if you don’t want to spend your visit stuck in traffic. Boston is also known for being walkable. You can hop on an MBTA train or bus to get anywhere you need to go at a low cost, or simply walk to your destination to enjoy the culture and flavor of the city. 

Crime rate in Boston

The crime rate in Boston will also affect your driving experience as well as your
car insurance
rates.
The crime rate in Boston is considerably higher than the national average, although at 26 crimes per 1,000 residents the city wouldn’t be considered overly dangerous either. If you’re worried about safety while driving through Boston, stick to safer neighborhoods like Allston-Brighton, East Boston, South Boston, and Hyde Park.
Property crimes in Boston occur at a rate of 20 crimes per every thousand residents—meaning you have a one-in-fifty chance of becoming a victim of motor vehicle theft or vandalism. 

How to find car insurance in Boston

Driving in Boston isn’t always the easiest, but that doesn’t mean finding car insurance has to be as challenging as navigating a winding New England street! With
Jerry
, you can find the best rates on the coverage you need to keep yourself and your car safe in Boston.
The app is easy to use: just sign up, plug in your information, and almost instantly receive dozens of competitive quotes. Since Jerry uses information from your existing insurer to provide options for a new plan, you won’t have to make a single call or fill out a single form to get the best rates—our team of expert agents will take the wheel and lead the way!
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By Sara Brody
Updated on Feb 1, 2023
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett, Senior Editor.
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