Lamattina Continues to Be Watchdog Over Taxi Fares for Residents

It’s bad enough East Boston residents have to deal with a few realities like living next to an airport or paying a toll to travel one mile into their own city without being discriminated against by Boston cabbies.

Residents have been complaining that cab drivers are frequently tacking on $4.50 – the cost of the taxi’s toll back through one of the harbor tunnels – or half of that, $2.25, to the Eastie rider’s fare.

Regulations are already in place prohibiting cab drivers from charging passengers going to residential areas of Eastie an additional fee for the tunnel toll.

That practice is explicitly forbidden in language clearly spelled out inside the cab and visible to passengers.

Time and again City Councilor Sal LaMattina has notified Boston cabbies that they cannot charge individuals for the toll in Eastie. Cab companies have received a copy of the Hackney code and will be told that violators are subject to discipline, Appendix IV of the Hackney Meter Rates code states that passenger shall not pay any toll from Boston proper to Eastie’s residential neighborhoods. However this does not include passengers traveling to Logan Airport.

“The law is clear, but we’ve got to get word out to the public that residents should not be charged,” LaMattina has said.

The problem between cabbies and Eastie residents have forced many here to choose other forms of transportation like Uber, much the chagrin of the Boston taxi industry.

For his part, LaMattina became a supporter of Uber, the widely popular mobile application taxi service, and welcomed its launching of a new ferry service in Eastie and the Boston Harbor during the summer.

However, the taxi industry has been putting pressure on Boston’s elected officials to reel in Uber’s growth here in Eastie and elsewhere in Boston. The cabbies here feel that Uber is too unregulated and is a serious threat to their business.

Mayor Martin Walsh this week announced the appointment of 24 members to the “Taxi Advisory Committee” to examine policy and regulatory frameworks to support the taxi industry throughout the City of Boston. The committee is comprised of representatives from the taxi industry, municipal and state governmental agencies, and community partners.

“I sincerely appreciate patience of both the public and the taxi industry over the past few months as we worked to appoint one of the largest groups of stakeholder representatives that the City of Boston has brought together,” said Walsh. “Boston’s industry is unique in many aspects, but common themes can be seen throughout, as cities and states work to get a grasp on the changing face of transportation. We look forward to engaging the public in several ways to gather valuable input and feedback from the people who make Boston the great city that it is.”

The Taxi Advisory Committee will meet as a group on an ongoing basis and engage the public in a variety of ways, to ensure that all stakeholders have a chance to provide input throughout the process. This community engagement aspect will include several public meetings, beginning this month, as well as online feedback forms available today on the Advisory Committee’s website:

“The Mayor’s commitment to bring together stakeholders to discuss and develop new policy has gained steam in his Office of Intergovernmental Relations,” said Chris English, Chair of the Taxi Advisory Committee. “The issues facing the for-hire-transportation industry in Boston, and across the country, are significant.”

While English may feel the impacts of company’s like Uber are significant in Boston, residents here have welcomed the competition because many feel the so-called ‘regulated’ taxi industry in Boston is yet to follow its own regulations.

 LaMattina wrote a City Council order recently on the issue and noted that Eastie residents have endured “the many hardships and burdens” related to having the harbor tunnels and Logan Airport in their community and that it is unacceptable that they be “required to pay more and receive inferior service” from the taxi industry.

A hearing was held and was aimed at educating passengers, as well as cab drivers, about the rights of riders. The hearing also address the scarcity of cabs in Eastie and the refusal of taxi service to the neighborhood – issues that the councilor has heard about from residents in the past.

“I know my rights as a passenger and all Eastie residents should know their rights,” said LaMattina. “If anyone feels threatened by a cab driver they should demand immediate drop off at District 7 Police Station on Meridian Street and report the incident.”

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