Everyone loves a loophole and many Boston cabbies are no exception to that rule.
Hundreds of Boston cabs cruising through East Boston everyday tack on an additional rate of $5.25 that goes towards the cabbies ride back through the Callahan Tunnel back to Boston.
Hundreds of cabbies everyday are coming to the airport through the Sumner or Ted Williams tunnels but may not return through the Sumner Tunnel and pocket the toll charge.
Instead of going back to Boston using the tunnel, they avoid the tunnel to make the quick $5.25 and cruise out of the airport and through East Boston, into Chelsea and then through Everett into Boston.
There are no numbers available on exactly how many cabbies a day are doing this – but it is estimated in the hundreds and has Meridian Street residents, the main thoroughfare through Eastie for cabbies cutting out the Boston toll, very peeved.
Tuesday the traffic light at the corner of Meridian and White Streets looked more like the taxi pool lane at Logan Airport than a neighborhood street.
Taxis were lined up at the red light as far as the eye could see. During a 20-minute time period, dozens of empty taxis flew down Meridian Street on their way to Chelsea and the ‘free’ Route 99 shortcut back to Boston.
“It has been an ongoing problem for years now and all these taxis are supposed to be using the Martin A. Coughlin Bypass Road to Chelsea to keep them off the roads of East Boston,” said member of Friends of Meridian Street’s Paul Howes. The group was formed mainly to address this taxi traffic issue. “We have again monitored this and from 4 a.m. through 6:30 a.m. 7 days a week 75-90 percent of the traffic using Meridian St. to Chelsea are empty taxis from Logan Airport. We are talking about hundreds of taxis daily. We have contacted the Boston hackney division and they cannot do anything about this.”
In fact, police from District 7 assigned to Eastie traffic duty tried once before on cracking down on taxis– writing tickets for ‘Fast Lane Evasion’ to cabbies.
“There’s no way to regulate it,” said someone who answered the phone at Boston’s Hackney Division. The gentleman also said that cabbies will always find ways to get out of paying tolls–even if it means crowding neighborhood streets.
“Look man, these guys are not going to pay $5.25 out of their own pocket each time they go through the tunnel,” said the Hackney official.
City Councilor Sal LaMattina said it’s just an example of how the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority’s toll hikes really work.
“The more and more they raise the tolls, the more and more cabbies and other motorists are going to find ways to beat the system,” said LaMattina. “But it’s always Eastie and our residents that have to suffer the additional traffic and pollution. Something needs to be done about this.”
LaMattina and the Boston Hackney Division both said that if a cabbie takes the toll fee for the return trip they are technically supposed to go back to Boston through the tunnel–provided they didn’t pick up another fare in Eastie.
But until a solution is found, Howes and other Meridian Street residents will remain frustrated. “These empty Logan Airport taxis have to be made to use the bypass road by someone,” he said. “Massport officials, East Boston elected officials, City Hall Department of Transportation? With the health of our children, families and residents of East Boston at serious risk from the overwhelming amount of pollution from the empty Logan Airport taxis, this has to be stopped.”