Deep within Governor Patrick's transportation bill, sitting quietly in Section 43, is a provision that eliminates the residential toll exemption, which lowers the cost of traveling through the harbor tunnels and over the Tobin Bridge for residents of neighborhoods that are affected by those projects. Instead, residents of East Boston, South Boston, Charlestown, the North End, Winthrop and Chelsea "shall pay a toll fixed at $.50 above the one-way full rapid transit fare as established from time to time" by the MBTA.
Currently, the full fare -- not the CharlieCard fare -- is $2, which means the tunnel tolls for Eastie residents would immediately jump from 40 cents to $2.50, and then the price would go up with T fare increases.
City Councilor Sal LaMattina, in an open letter to the governor, notes the impositions that the state's transportation infrastructure has directly placed on these communities for decades (well, except for Winthrop, which seems to have been added in a nod to the new House speaker). The councilor also rightly points out that residents of Eastie, Southie, Charlestown and the North End aren't going "into the city of Boston" -- in the language of Section 43 -- but, rather, moving around within their city.
This provision is the first real test to see if Jim Aloisi, the new transportation secretary, has forgotten about his old neighborhood, or if he is willing to step up and to defend a community that has been kicked around by big transportation interests for decades.