The Madness That is Boston Move-in Day 2019

Originally posted on August 22, 2019 11:00 am
Updated on September 27, 2019 1:40 pm

If you don’t live in Boston, then you probably don’t know about the struggles faced by students during the dreaded move-in period. Every year, between late August and early September, new and returning students move into dorms or new apartments near the city’s universities. While moving week is a common occurrence every year, that doesn’t dampen the annoyance of dealing with streets flooded with furniture, traffic delays, and finding alternative routes to work, etc. Like the heat map in 2016 used by Kyle Scott Clauss, we decided to take a deeper look into the madness that is Boston move-in day. This year we also did a comparison of 2018 and 2019 to see if Boston move-in day has gotten worse or better.

Viewing the Madness Through Heat Maps

We looked at the data provided by the City of Boston for street occupancy permits. For this study, we used publicly available data on Boston’s moving truck permits, made available on Boston’s open data hub. The data provides us with the issued moving truck permits for dates up to September 12, 2019. We focused exclusively on the expiration dates of the moving truck permits (which generally coincide with the actual moving dates) instead of the permit issuance dates. You can only apply online for a permit if your moving date is at least two weeks away, and no more than a month away. That said, because we are looking at when these moving permits expire, there may be additional permits registered between now and your move-in day, so long as potential movers fit the above criteria.

We created two maps:

  1. A daily heat map of Boston showing the number of issued moving truck permits on a daily basis in 2018. 
  2. A daily heat map of Boston showing the number of issued moving truck permits on a daily basis in 2019. 

Like the previously published maps, both of the embedded maps below show the addresses of the moving truck permits that were issued. Looking at the maps, it is easy to spot which neighborhoods are busier than others, and under which time frame and dates. 


Daily Heat Map of Boston 2018 (for comparison)


When breaking down the daily map for 2018, you can see that there are not a lot of spikes in issued moving truck permits until August 31, 2018, through September 2, 2018. Much of Boston is pretty congested and busy around those dates, specifically the neighborhoods that are also home to, or in close proximity to, Boston’s schools and universities. Now let’s take a look at the next map, which takes a closer look at the daily number of issued moving truck permits for 2019.

Daily Heat Map of Boston 2019


The daily embedded map for 2019 takes a closer look at the daily number of issued moving truck permits from August 1, 2019, to September 12, 2019. This map will be a great tool for those looking to check out if their neighborhood will be particularly affected by students and all of their “baggage” during certain dates. By looking more specifically at the individual dates, we see that the following dates have higher spikes than others. This is due to permits ending on those dates. The top six dates for 2019, where permits will expire or have expired, are:

  • September 1, 2019: 742 permits are due to expire on this day.
  • August 31, 2019: 468 permits are due to expire on this day.
  • June 1, 2019: 234 permits expired on this day.
  • August 24, 2019: 202 permits are due to expire on this day.
  • (TIE) August 30, 2019: 185 permits are due to expire on this day.
  • (TIE) May 31, 2019: 185 permits expired on this day.

For 2019, instead of a list of the top five dates with the highest number of permits expiring on that date we have a list of the top six dates, as we have a tie this year. The top two dates are again, September 1 (742 permits due to expire) and August 31 (468 permits due to expire). Those two days were the top dates for 2017 and 2018 as well. The next dates on the list with the most permits to expire, or has expired, for 2019 were June 1 (234 permits expired), August 24 (202 permits due to expire), August 30 (185 permits due to expire), and May 31 (185 permits expired).


A Deeper Look at Boston Moving Patterns

From the data provided, it is safe to say that there is a relationship between the number of issued permits and the move-in period for new and returning students in Boston. Looking at the number of issued moving truck permits all the way back to January 2014, to September 2019, this is how the numbers are divided.


Looking at the chart displayed above, we see that August is a clear winner for the most issued permits for the years 2014 to 2019. Other months that show a higher than the average number of issued moving truck permits are May, June, July, and September. Let’s take a closer look at the months with the highest number of issued moving truck permits.


Top 10 Months With Highest Number of Issued Permits


Month Number of Issued Permits
1 August, 2017 3,257
2 August, 2016 3,160
3 August, 2015 3,127
4 August, 2019 3,003
5 August, 2014 2,905
6 August, 2018 2,839
7 August, 2013 2,749
8 September, 2017 2,264
9 September, 2016 2,172
10 September, 2015 2,114


The table above takes a closer look at the number of expired moving truck permits all the way back from 2014 to 2019. August 2017 is still the clear winner with 3,257 issued permits. August still remains the number one month in regards to issued permits, with August occupying seven out of the ten spots for the top ten months with the highest number of issued permits this year as well. The rest of the spots are occupied by the month of September. This shows that there is a high correlation between issued permits for moving trucks and the move-in period for new and returning students.

So which areas are the worst to commute in around the move-in period? For you to know which area to avoid, we took a deeper look at the zip codes attached to the issued moving truck permits as well. Knowing which zip codes that are the busiest might help you to plan ahead, if you’re one of those that will be affected by the move-in period when commuting to work, the gym, etc. We ranked it by the top ten busiest zip codes based on the number of issued permits.


Top 10 Zip Codes With Highest Number of Issued Permits


Zip Code Permit Count
1 02135 (Brighton) 487
2 02127 (South Boston) 463
3 02116 (Back Bay) 432
4 02114 (West End) 368
5 02113 (North End) 363
6 02118 (South End) 304
7 02134 (Allston) 265
8 02115 (Fenway – East Fens – Longwood) 252
9 02215 (Fenway – Kenmore) 184
10 02130 (Jamaica Plain) 183


The zip code with the highest number of issued permits is 02135 (Brighton), with a total of 487 issued permits from the time frame August to September, 2019. Being that Boston College is located in Brighton, it makes sense that so many permits were issued for that area. Following that we have the zip codes 02127 (South Boston), 02116 (Back Bay), and 02114 (West End). We still see that a lot of the zip codes with the highest number of issued permits are in popular neighborhoods for students to live. All the top ten zip codes for 2019 are the same as the top ten zip codes for 2018, just different rankings. For example, we saw that for the same time frame last year the zip code with the highest number of issued permits were 02116 (Back Bay). This year, the number one zip code was 02135 (Brighton).

Survival Guide: How to Dodge the Madness

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

If you have a school or university near where you live you probably already know that there will be more traffic than usual around the move-in period. But exactly when is the move-in dates for your local university or school? It might be worth checking the academic calendar to ensure you mark the dates that your area will be busier than normal. Here are just a couple of move-in dates for Boston schools and universities that are coming up in the next couple of weeks, based on the academic calendar for 2019.

  1. Boston University: 8/31/19 – 9/02/19
  2. Northeastern University: 8/29/19 – 8/31/19, 9/2/19
  3. Boston College: 8/22/19 – 8/24/19
  4. Emerson College: 8/24/19 – 8/27/19
  5. Suffolk University: 8/28/19 and 9/1/19
  6. Berklee College of Music: 8/28/19 and 8/31/19

2. Map out alternate routes by using the map

Check the embedded map to figure out alternative routes to the gym, the store, or work. Take a minute to map out some routes, other than your normal route, if you can see from the map that your normal route might be rather busy. No one wants to get stuck in the middle of a traffic jam or behind a big moving truck on a narrow road. Do some research on the route before heading out to save yourself from a headache.

3. Plan around potential delays

Despite all your best efforts and planning, there are some delays and annoyances that are going to be impossible to evade. Especially in a city as close quartered as most of Boston is, a single vehicle being out of place or stopped for too long can cause some major issues. As a result, you should give yourself more time each and every day to account for the potential delays. While you might miss out on the delays you planned for and be very early to work or class, that is better than not giving yourself that extra time and hitting a delay, making yourself very late.

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

While this tip isn’t so much about helping you avoid the madness that is Boston Move-In Day, it can make it much more manageable for you. The fact is, there is a high chance of your commute or drive being disrupted in some way due to the moving. Instead of thinking you will get through without a hitch and then getting upset or angry when you get stopped, expect and accept the fact that it is likely to happen. Simply expecting to be disrupted by the madness will make it less bad when it occurs, and if it doesn’t, you will feel like you just hit the jackpot.

5. Take advantage of the chaos with “Allston Christmas”

While many will avoid this area at all costs, there are also those all deliberately look to go to these areas around move-in day. The reasoning for this is “Allston Christmas”. For those unfamiliar, Allston Christmas is the period around move-in day in which a ton of people are moving in and out of apartments. While most of their furniture will make it into a U-Haul or an apartment, there are always some just left on the street, free for anyone to take. So instead of treating this whole ordeal as a disturbance or a huge place to be avoided, treat it as an opportunity. There is a good chance you can find some pretty cool things simply laying on the sidewalk or in the street.

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