johnsu01 (johnsu01) wrote,

What's the deal with East Boston taxi tolls

Meridian Street in East Boston

At some point, I would like to write in detail about the absurd situations which arise whenever one tries to take a cab into East Boston. But for now, a quick introduction.

The basic situation is this: When taking a Boston cab from Boston into East Boston, the cab driver is not allowed to charge the passenger for the Sumner Tunnel toll. This means that the driver can end up on the hook for $5.25 coming empty back into Boston. Given that most fares from Boston to places like Maverick Square are only $12-$20, that's a substantial loss for drivers. But of course, paying the toll is also a substantial loss for passengers. So, East Boston residents are in a sort of constant low-level war with cab drivers, wherein drivers attempt to cajole and/or guilt passengers into paying the toll voluntarily -- or just outright refuse fares to Eastie. Residents react to this situation in a variety of ways, either:

  1. belligerently asserting their rights,
  2. voluntarily paying the toll to show their solidarity with the common cab driver or in the vague hopes that positive karma from this will help get them a cab next time, or
  3. refusing to pay the toll but tipping generously -- so as to end up basically paying the toll.

This is all complicated by the fact that some drivers just don't know the rules. Like this guy, who refused to let the non-toll-paying passenger out of his cab and instead drove to the police station in an attempt to collect the toll.

But the usual result is that at high-demand times, we have to try several times before we can successfully get a cab, and often that only works by offering to pay the toll. Given that it is not possible to walk or bike into East Boston from Boston, this can feel like pretty serious disenfranchisement. But we can't really blame the drivers either. The rules need to be fixed.

Tags: boston, east boston, taxis, tolls
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