Highway robbery on the way to work

Highway robbery on the way to work

My daily commute to Boston requires that I travel over toll roads (unless I want a much less convenient drive on secondary roads, but more on that later.) I can drive down Route 128 to the Massachusetts Turnpike, East—Toll: $1.00. Or I can drive down Route 128 to Route 93 to the Mass Turnpike, West—Toll:$1.00. Or I can drive down Route 1A, through the Ted Williams Tunnel to the MassPike, West—Toll:$4.00. Round trip is $2, $2, $5, respectively. (You only pay on the Ted Williams going west.)

That’s pretty expensive and in fact I usually drive the most expensive route because, of course, it’s the much quicker one. And I’m driving off the peak hours; if I was driving during peak, my commute would be twice as long.

Okay, that’s the price you pay for living and working north or west of Boston. (Commuters from the south of Boston have no tolls, go figure.) But now, our illustrious overlords are contemplating massive toll increases. I should point out here—as I have before—that the Massachusetts Turnpike tolls set up 40 years ago or more were to be torn down after the bonds required to pay for the construction of the road were paid off. Which they were. In the mid-80s.

But in the People’s Republic, you never kill the job. Nope, once a publicly funded program starts it must continue in perpetuity. So new bonds were taken out and now we’re paying off the massive overages on the Big Dig (not to mention overtime for all the nephews and nieces and coatholders of all those state politicians who work for the Turnpike Authority.)

So now we’re looking at tolls going from $2, $2, and $5 per day to $3.50, $3.50, and $9.50 per day! That’s an additional $1125 per year for the fastest route! Additional! (Actually the increase will worse because users of the electronic FastPass system get a small discount off the regular fare right now, but that will likely be eliminated too.)

What will I do? I’m not going to pay it if I can avoid it. When our offices move to Braintree next year, we plan to move down to the area, which will let me avoid tolls roads all together. Until then, as of January 1, I’ll just have to drive on those secondary roads: Route 128 to Route 93 to Route 16 to Route 2A to Brighton. I’m sure I won’t be alone and my entire commute will become longer and more painful. But what choice do I have? I certainly can’t afford yet higher taxes and fees if I can avoid them.

Silly liberal overlords who think that increasing taxes and tolls doesn’t affect behavior. Silly sheeplike voters who complain to one another and yet continue to vote the same corrupt tax-and-spenders into office every year.

  • It certainly avoids the tolls, but it’s a long journey between the traffic on 128 and the traffic lights on Rt. 30. May have to resort to it though.

    (Yeah, I leave my house at 6:15, but by the time I get down there traffic is pretty busy. The goal is to get to the office by 7:30.)

  • Why should the citizens of the Commonwealth subsidize your commute, exacerbated by your personal preferences to live so far from where you work? Are we now to make the MBTA free, as you want the roadways to be? How is it a big, bad liberal thing to make the people who are most responsible for degradation of the infrastructure pay (only partially) for its upkeep? That sounds like a conservative value to me.

  • You are being unnecessarily contentious. For one thing, I live just outside the city about 20 miles from my place of work. It’s not like I live in New Hampshire and commute to Boston.

    Second, I already pay for the cost of upkeep of the roads I drive on through the gas taxes, income taxes, sales taxes, and property taxes. The tolls on the Mass Pike/Route 90 pay for the Central Artery project. But those who primarily drive the Central Artery/Route 93—people coming down 93 from the north or up 93 from the South—don’t pay tolls. So the people who pay the tolls are in fact subsidizing Central Artery drivers’ commute.

    Finally, the Mass Highway Department, the Mass Turnpike Authority, and Massport—three overlapping agencies who all levy tolls—are notoriously inefficient and corrupt and use a very large proportion of the monies they collect simply to pay for the bureaucracy and not for road maintenance.

    Smaller government, personal responsibility, and equitably distributed taxation are all conservative values.

  • I agree with Dom’s last comments.

    Hacks, unions, and the usual corruption aside, tolls are an extremely inefficient tax collection system because of the overhead.

    A gas tax seems the most equitable and far more efficient but I haven’t given it a lot of thought.

  • Andrew: When Melanie was a grad student at Boston College, if she took the T from Salem, it took her about 2 hours each way and she had to abide by the inflexible train schedule.

    I work across the street from BC. If I relied on the T and commuter rail, I wouldn’t be able to work late when necessary or drive offsite when I need to. I’d be home with my family even less time. And factoring in the cost of a T pass, I’d still be paying more than $160 per month.

    But it’s the time hassle that’s the big problem. Ever ride the Green line from North Station out to Boston College, stopping every 20 feet to pick up and drop off more college students? I used to ride it when I was a student at BU 20 years ago. I don’t suppose it’s improved much.

  • I worked nights this week and coming home from downtown on the Jamaicaway, I was noticing the cars backed up on the other side of the road for what seemed like the entire length of the roadway. It seems to be the same all over the Boston area. I guess I wonder what motivates so many people to live/work here when 1. it’s expensive, at least in terms of rents and real estate, and 2. their daily commutes have to be horrible.

  • For some people, this is where their work is and in other expensive urban settings. They don’t have an easy option.

    Also, don’t discount the importance of rootedness. We have a highly mobile culture, but it wasn’t long ago that people were born lived and died, all within a few miles. This is where family is and where their lives have been and their church.

    There’s also simple inertia. Getting a new job, packing up a family, buying and selling a home, and moving cross country are major stressmakers and expenses and not everyone can do that.

    Plus some people don’t realize how bad it is. They just aren’t aware of how much more expensive and crowded it is compared to other places.

    It’s a lot of things.

  • “the importance of rootedness.”

    Hi, Dom:

    Thanks for your response! I guess my question was more about those who are kind of transplants here (although I know I didn’t really make that clear in my post). I would guess that marriage, colleges, and hospitals account for alot of the migration here.

    That said, I also wonder why other people don’t do what you plan on doing – moving a relatively short distance to be closer to your job. I am sure this is easier said than done, especially with both parents working in many households and people wanting to live in a city/town where their kids can attend the public schools, but I guess I am kind of surprised that more people don’t choose this option.

    I’d be curious to hear anyone’s reasons why he/she feels that a less than optimal commute is worthwhile or necessary for his/her individual situation!

    God bless –