Finale in Harvard Square, the romantically lit dessert hub, sees a similar decline, with noticeably fewer couples coming in for date night. At Raising Cane’s, a restaurant franchise operated by BU, the number of chicken fingers sold per week plummets from about 30,000 to just 15,000. And at Papa John’s Pizza on Tremont Street, which delivers to students at BU and Northeastern, the drop-off is similarly dramatic: Chris Johnson, one of the general managers, estimates that the store’s business falls by 45 percent. During the school year, he says, the phone starts ringing off the hook at 2 a.m., and pizzas are leaving the store for delivery till 3 in the morning or even later. During the summer, by contrast, the store’s management simply closes the store at 1 a.m. “You just hunker down and wait for the kids to come back,” said Johnson. “But it’s bad.”
Papa John’s is not alone in weathering a drop in demand for late-night munchies: According to the online delivery service GrubHub, the number of orders placed between midnight and 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights drops in the summer by 10 percent and 14 percent, respectively. And the amount of waste that leaves the area declines, too. Boston University produces about 160 tons of recycling per month during the school year; in the summer, when its dorms sit mostly empty, the total is just over half that.
F or all the people leaving Boston in the summer, there are huge numbers of out-of-towners pouring in to temporarily take their place. (Nothing says summer in Boston like competing Paul Reveres leading tour groups from Park Street to Faneuil Hall.) As they do, Bostonians have some other kinds of company on the roads. The city’s iconic Duck Boat fleet begins to wake from its winter hibernation around March, and grows as the weather warms. By mid-June, its full roster of 28 amphibious craft is deployed, weaving through narrow city streets, into the river, and back out again.
Summer traffic can seem relaxed, quiet even, but drivers also know they’re in a circumscribed city with its own summer rules. Avoid Memorial Drive on Sundays, when the road closes near Harvard; track the Red Sox schedule religiously so you know when to steer clear of Kenmore Square. And whatever you do, avoid Route 3 south toward the Cape on Saturday mornings.
The city’s changing travel patterns also show up in its bike-sharing system. According to data collected by Hubway, bike racks located near tourist destinations are much more popular drop-off points during the summer than in the fall, while racks located near college campuses are relatively less active. In August 2012, for instance, a whopping 2,947 bikes were dropped off at the Boston Public Library; the following October, that number fell to 2,113. Over by BU, on the other hand, the number of bikes picked up rose from 787 last August to 900 just two months later, when school was back in session.
Of course, some things do stay the same. According to numbers from the Boston Transportation Department, parking violations bounce around from month to month but don’t really follow a seasonal pattern. So parking may feel easier during the summer, but you’re just as likely to get a ticket in July as you are in March. Which perhaps you can take as reassuring: Underneath, it’s still the same city after all.
Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.