Thursday, August 21, 2008

All About the Tolls

It is close to the end of the day and I'll be heading out on my own (thankfully toll free) commute. But I wanted to share this article from today's MetroWest Daily News about the recent toll discussion. In the catchy-titled "MetroWest: For whom the commute tolls" the bane of MetroWest (and West) drivers is addressed.

Yup, those of us who live West of Boston are footing the bill for the Big Dig project. I don't think the I-93 drivers who live North and South of the city are thanking us. We're not martyrs, but maybe we should be.
The announcement comes to the chagrin of people like Mary Z. Connaughton, who has served on the Mass. Turnpike Authority's toll equity working group since last fall.

Connaughton, who lives in Framingham, sees the Mass. Pike tolls as an unfair fee structure that places a disproportionate fiscal burden on MetroWest commuters. Expanding the tolls to I-93, both north and south of Boston, is a proposal she would like to see fleshed out.

Through tolls, MetroWest commuters have shouldered the brunt of projects like the Big Dig and supported Turnpike infrastructure outside of the region for too long, Connaughton said.

The article noted that someone driving from Framingham to Boston during the work week could incur toll costs of $1,400.00 annually. Of course, MetroWest commuters could take the commuter rail, but it isn't an option that works for everyone. And not every commuting using the Pike is taking it all the way into downtown Boston. A lot of people have the unfortunate circumstances of working for companies located along Route 9 (TJX anyone) or 128. If you work along 128, it is either drive or try to telecommute.
In a May letter to the Turnpike Authority, Paul Matthews, executive director of the Westborough-based 495/MetroWest Corridor Partnership, wrote Pike tolling options should be reviewed and tolling strategies should be developed where daily commuting cost is "more equitable from all directions."

I don't buy the North Shore's seemingly powerful or motivated reps who feel that adding tolls on I-93 would require federal approval. Why? Because, when you get to the heart of it, the Mass Pike IS a federal road. I-90 is part of the great Interstate Highway. And have these same public officials been up to New Hampshire anytime in the past 25 or so years? Guess what - as soon as you cross over into New Hampshire, on Federal roads, you hit a toll booth.

This is a good time for state reps and senators representing Central Mass and Metro West to step up and demand equal parity for transportation costs!

To make matters worse, for those of us who live West of the city, in today's Mass Pike meeting the authority decided to eliminate discounts for Fast Lane users, according to WBZ. Yup, the one discount that benefited MetroWest / West drivers the most is going away. Really, the "discount" was only $.25 at the Allston-Brighton booth and $.50 at the tunnels.

Eliminating this discount will generate an extra $18 million to the cash-strapped Pike.

I suppose it could be worse - the Pike could have raised tolls across the system.

With that, I need to leave the office and drive home.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I suppose one could always take Rt 9, but the stop-and-go would kill any toll savings.

Regarding the elimination of the Fast Lane discount, here's a harsh alternative: cancel your Fast Lane account and open an E-Z Pass account instead. While you won't get discounts on the Mass Pike (I don't think E-Z Pass members ever received a discount using the Mass Pike), you WILL get them at NYC area bridges and tunnels if you ever travel down there, which I think a lot of folks do, either on a regular or occasional basis. Discounts apply ALL the time at non-Port Authority tunnels and bridges; for Port Authority tunnels and bridges, off-peak discounts of $2 or more (from a norm of $8 or more). Much better discounts than a measly quarter here and there on the Mass Pike. Check out the E-Z Pass website for more info.

Even if you don't travel to NYC, it's good for almost all states in the NE region, from Maine to Virginia; it'll save you time at the toll booths; and here's the best part: there is NO deposit required for the transponder if you open an account with a credit card, so your initial investment is only the amount of prepaid tolls in your account (typically in $25 increments). Fast Lane charges a fee for the transponder no matter what, and their replacement fee if your transponder is ever lost or stolen is HIGHER than E-Z Pass' fee.

It's simple math and simple economics. If you want to protest this, speak with your wallet and they will listen. I know a lot of people will cry foul because it's not supporting the state, but it's like any other business. If you don't like the prices or service at one business, take your business elsewhere.

(And no, I don't work for E-Z Pass)