The Madness of Boston Move-In Day

If you don’t live in Boston, you probably don’t know the hardships students and local residents face during the dreaded move-in season. Every year, between the end of August and the beginning of September, new and returning students move into dormitories or new apartments near the universities in the city. While moving week is a common occurrence every year, that doesn’t alleviate the annoyance of dealing with streets flooded with furniture, traffic delays, finding alternate routes to get to work, and more.

See the madness through heatmaps

We reviewed data provided by the City of Boston for street occupancy permits. For this study, we used publicly available data on Boston moving truck permits, made available on the open data center. The data provides us with moving truck permits issued through September 16, 2022. We have focused exclusively on moving truck permit expiration dates (which typically coincide with actual moving dates) instead of dates issuance of permits. You can only apply for a permit online if your moving date is at least two weeks away and no more than a month away. However, as we are reviewing the expiration date of these moving permits, additional permits may be registered by the day you move in, provided the potential movers meet the above criteria.

The map above takes a close look at the daily number of moving truck permits issued from August 1, 2022 through September 16, 2022. This map will be a great tool for anyone looking to check if their neighborhood will be particularly impacted by students and all . their “luggage” on specific dates. Looking more closely at the individual dates, we see that the following dates have higher peaks than the others. This is due to the permits ending on these dates. The six key dates for 2022 when permits will or have expired are:

  • September 1, 2022: 780 permits expire.
  • August 31, 2022: 537 permits expire.
  • September 2, 2022: 196 permits expire.
  • August 30, 2022: 195 permits expire.
  • August 27, 2022: 189 permits expire.

A Closer Look at Boston’s Moving Patterns

From the data provided, it is safe to say that there is a relationship between the number of permits issued and the period of moving in for new and returning students in Boston. Looking at the number of moving truck permits issued from January 2018 to September 2022, here’s how the numbers are broken down.

Top 10 months with the highest number of permits issued

Month Number of permits issued
1 August 2021 5,520
2 August 2018 4,396
3 August 2019 4,253
4 August 2020 3,616
5 August 2022 3,435
6 July 2021 2,963
seven July 2022 2,409
8 May 2021 2,407
9 July 2018 2,406
ten July 2020 2,342

The table above shows the number of moving truck licenses that expired in the last five years. August 2021 ranks first, with 3,257 permits issued. August remains the month with the most permits issued, with August occupying five of the ten places for the first ten months.

So, which areas are the hardest to navigate during the move-in period? To let you know which area to avoid, we also took a closer look at the postcodes attached to the issued moving truck permits. Knowing which postcodes are busiest can help you plan ahead if you’re one of those affected by the move-in period when commuting to work, the gym, etc. We’ve ranked the ten busiest postcodes based on the number of permits issued.

Top 10 postal codes with the most permits issued

Postal code Number of permits
1 02127 (South Boston) 557
2 02135 (Brighton) 397
3 02118 (south end) 287
4 02113 (north end) 277
5 02116 (Rear bay) 271
6 02114 (west end) 263
seven 02134 (Allston) 222
8 02130 (Jamaica Plain) 184
9 02115 (Fenway–East Fens–Longwood) 174
ten 02215 (Fenway-Kenmore) 139

The zip code with the highest number of permits issued is 02127 (South Boston), with a total of 557 permits issued between August and September 2022. After 02127 we have the zip codes 02135 (Brighton), 02118 (South End), and 02113 (north end). We continue to find that many of the postcodes with the highest number of permits issued are in popular neighborhoods where students can live.

Survival guide: how to dodge madness

1. Check when nearby universities and schools have their move-in day

If you have a school or university near you, you probably already know that there will be more traffic than usual during the move-in period. But what exactly are the move-in dates at your local college or school? It may be worth checking the academic calendar to make sure you mark dates when your area will be busier than usual. Here are some moving dates for schools and colleges in Boston coming up in the coming weeks, based on the academic calendar for 2019.

  • Boston University: Wednesday August 31, 2022 to Monday September 5, 2022
  • Northeastern University: Sunday August 28, 2022 to Monday September 5, 2022
  • Boston College: Thursday August 25, 2022 to Sunday August 28, 2022
  • Emerson College: Friday August 26, 2022, Sunday August 28, 2022, Wednesday August 31, 2022 and Thursday September 1, 2022
  • University of Suffolk: Saturday September 3, 2022 to Sunday September 4, 2022
  • Berklee College of Music: Saturday, August 27, 2022

2. Plot alternative routes using the map

Check the built-in map to find alternate routes to the gym, the store or work. Take a minute to plot paths other than your normal route if you can see on the map that it might be rather busy. Nobody wants to get stuck in the middle of a traffic jam or behind a big moving truck on a narrow road. Research the route before you set off to save yourself a headache.

3. Plan for potential delays

Despite your best efforts and planning, delays and inconvenience will be impossible to avoid. Especially in a city as close as most of Boston, a single vehicle moved or stopped for too long can cause major problems. Therefore, you should give yourself extra time each day to account for potential delays. Although you may miss lateness, you have planned and be very early for work or class, it is better than not giving yourself that extra time and falling behind, making you very late.

4. Accept the fact and don’t panic or get angry

While this advice isn’t so much about helping you avoid the madness that is Boston Move-In Day, it can make it a whole lot more manageable for you. Chances are that your commute or car journey will be disrupted in some way due to the moving trucks. Instead of thinking you’ll get away with it and then getting upset or angry when you get arrested, expect it to happen and embrace it. Just expecting to be disturbed by madness will make it less bad when it happens, and if it isn’t, you’ll feel like you’ve hit the jackpot.

5. Enjoy the chaos with “Allston Christmas”

While many will avoid this area at all costs, some deliberately seek to travel there on move-in day. The reasoning for this is “Allston Christmas”. For those unfamiliar, Allston Christmas is the time around move-in day when many people move in and out of apartments. Although most of the furniture transforms into a U-Haul or apartment, there is always some left over on the street for anyone to take away for free. So instead of treating this whole ordeal as a disturbance, treat it as an opportunity. Chances are you’ll find some pretty cool stuff just lying on the sidewalk or in the street.

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