So we now have a proposed resident discount program that increases fares for the communities most impacted but now includes Winthrop, which had never received a reduced toll in the past. This is troubling for three reasons.
(1) It singles out Winthrop to receive a benefit, but one could easily argue that Revere, Lynn or other towns close by should also receive the same benefit as Winthrop. As the overall toll scheme is currently progressing all of the other towns would have to pay $7.00 to use any of the bridges and tunnels.
(2) By benefiting Winthrop and not Revere or other neighboring towns who surely have similar bridge and tunnel usage rates, the only reason I can come up with for adding Winthrop is to gain the particular support of an individual State Rep, who also happens to be the Speaker. It does not seem like good policy to offer benefits and detriments to certain communities solely based on the clout of their representative. Policy should be made on the merits of the proposal and consider the costs and benefits in achieving the stated governmental goal.
(3) There doesn’t seem to be a clear public policy goal with these changes. This change now gives places like South Boston and East Boston, whose residents may rarely use the Tobin (or be impacted by it), an unnecessarily reduced fare (same applies for Charlestown and Chelsea with the tunnels). Effectively, it reduces the potential income from certain residents who receive a discount on a bridge or tunnel that they don’t live near or suffer any impact from. This clouds the original purpose of the discount which was to offer relief to impacted communities. It is not clear to me how the revised Section 43 discount can be justified when it is done across all bridges and tunnels for some impacted and some non-impacted neighborhoods – while leaving out key impacted areas.
Another potential result of Section 43 is that it complicates the role of Senator Petrucelli, who is well positioned (on the Transportation Comm. and represents communities most affected by the tolls) to be a leading opposition voice at the State House on the toll issue. Petrucelli represents, among other areas, East Boston, Winthrop, and Revere. Section 43 pits East Boston’s and Winthrop’s interests against each other, and leaves Revere out in the cold. His position on Section 43 will be made much more difficult given the conflicting interests of his constituents.
In the House, one can imagine the reluctance of House members to oppose a provision that gives a small but direct benefit to Winthrop; especially as they look to quickly gain favor with the new Speaker and jockey for position in the House pecking order. It all seems perfectly designed to be a windfall for one community and the devastation of its neighbors.
Text of Section 43 for your reference:
Section 43. Notwithstanding the provisions of any general or special law to the contrary, residents with private vehicles registered in the town of Winthrop, the city of Chelsea, and in the East Boston section of the city of Boston, the Charlestown section of the city of Boston, the South Boston section of the city of Boston, and the North End section of the city of Boston, as the Boston transportation department has determined the geographical boundaries of such sections, from time to time, shall pay a toll fixed at $.50 above the one-way full rapid transit fare as established from time to time, by the Massachusetts bay transportation authority, for use of any tolled bridge or harbor tunnels into the city of Boston. This toll shall increase automatically consistent with any Massachusetts bay transportation authority authorized increase in the price of the one-way full fare; provided, however, at no time shall a resident eligible for the program identified in this section be required to pay a toll greater than the toll established in accordance with section 42 of this chapter.