After bracing themselves for commuting chaos because of the expected gridlock from the Democratic National Convention, Boston residents experienced a Monday remarkable for its normalcy.
Commuters found morning traffic flowing freely from all directions and trains neither crowded nor drastically delayed. Downtown streets only intermittently resounded with protests bellowed from bullhorns by small pockets of demonstrators.
"Look around, it's so quiet," taxi driver Gary Levin, 26, of Brookline, said as he barreled down a usually congested Beacon Street just after lunch. "I've been driving since 7 a.m., and this is better than any Monday I've ever worked."
Howard Cooper, 44, a lawyer at a financial district firm, said his 30-minute drive from the western suburb of Concord -- a route that usually takes him more than an hour -- was "the easiest commute I've had in 20 years of coming into Boston."
"The train was dead quiet," said David Rich, 33, who rode a commuter rail from Sudbury, north of Boston. His usual destination, North Station, was closed because it is next to FleetCenter. So he took the subway to a different stop. "I thought it was going to be awful," he said. "It was fine."
The evening commute went just as smoothly, even after 40 miles of roads were shut down late in the afternoon. The roadways will be closed each evening during the convention.
"It was as good a day as we could have hoped for," said Mariellen Burns, a spokeswoman for convention traffic planners. "But again we still need the same cooperation tomorrow. Everyone talks about how well it went, but we don't want them too optimistic."
For the second consecutive day, there were few protesters at the designated demonstration zone, a heavily barricaded patch of concrete under a highway overpass that was established by convention organizers.
The area, one block from FleetCenter, generated a lawsuit last week by demonstrators who said it was too confining to allow for free speech, but a federal judge ruled it did not need to be modified. On Monday, an appeals court declined to reverse the decision.
Monday morning, 32 black-hooded protesters, their arms bound with yellow cord, gathered in the facility, which they said approximates a prison. Mike McGuire, of Save Our Civil Liberties, wore a red Democratic National Committee T-shirt and marched the group around the 28,000-square-foot perimeter.
"Why do the Democrats stand silent while this assault on democracy occurs?" asked McGuire, of Baltimore, as the others kneeled before him. He called the demonstration area a "barbaric confine for people who want to express their democratic rights."
Demonstrators suffered another courtroom setback, when an antiabortion group lost its permit to demonstrate in front of the Beacon Hill home of Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.). The decision was upheld Monday afternoon by a U.S. District Court judge.
Other demonstrations included a march to FleetCenter organized by the self-described antiauthoritarian group Black Tea Society that drew fewer than 200 supporters, a meditation on Copley Square by the Chinese spiritual group Falun Dafa and a rally in the demonstration zone by the Boston Coalition for Palestinian Rights.
Police reported no arrests related to protests, and for the myriad agency and security personnel blanketing Boston streets, it was an uneventful day.
The heightened alert, however, triggered several false alarms. Police investigated at least 14 calls about suspicious packages, all of which were deemed safe.
A controversial facet of the convention security plan will be tested in court Tuesday, when a federal judge will hear a lawsuit brought by the National Lawyers Guild against the transportation authority's random searches of passengers and their baggage.