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Nov 20, 2008 06:27 AM

Tolls and East Boston Restaurants

After reading a related article in the Globe yesterday, I was wondering--with the state of the economy the way it is, if tolls increase sharply in the tunnels between East Boston and Boston, what kind of effect might it have on the East Boston restaurant scene? Between fewer people coming to Eastie and delivery costs going up because of the tolls, I feel that there could be a wave of closings--restaurants and otherwise--in Eastie.

Personally, if the tolls do double, I'll probably start taking the back way through the Chelsea warehouses more and more, even though the road is so bumpy that I need to wear a mouthguard just to drive on it.

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  1. How often do you have to travel into East Boston for dinner for it to become too expensive to keep going for dinner?..This argument about tolls irks me. If you have places you enjoy now...and pay the $3.50 to use the wouldnt go anymore because you have to pay another $3.50?..if you went to Eastie 3 or 4 times a would stop over $14.00 a month?....that is ridiculous...

    if you were driving in 6 months ago paying $3.50 and gas was $3.75 and you could swing it...why cant you keep going?...

    if you have to use the tunnel everyday for work that is one issue..but thinking you cant afford an extra $3.50 when you obviously are heading out to spend money on dinner is something that really shouldnt effect you all that much

    6 Replies
    1. re: jvish

      It's not so ridiculous if you're struggling financially and are on the verge of not going to restaurants at all in order to cut costs. Paying $7.00 to go through a tunnel might be a deal-breaker for some people, IMO.

      1. re: hiddenboston

        yeah but you are already paying $ often do you travel into east boston for dinner?...if you not so financially strapped that you can still head out for dinner and extra $3.50 once in a while shouldnt be a deal breaker..if you have to take the tunnel everyday for work..well thats another issue.

        if there is a place you them out by contiuning to support them and heading over there...if the extra $3.50 is going effect you that much you shouldnt be going out to dinner anyway

        1. re: hiddenboston

          If you're that broke, do what you should do in the first place and pay $1.70 to take the Blue Line!

        2. re: jvish

          The rapidly deteriorating economy will force a number or restaurants out of business everywhere. The toll increases, on the other hand, could work either way. It could cause as many people outside of boston to skip a trip into boston for dinner as the other way around. I think it depends on where most of the business for these restaurants comes from. Similar argument regarding the purveyors. On the other hand, saying its irrelevant is silly. Cost increases matter to customers and businesses.

          1. re: ljw7

            Definitely some good points. To me, it's anything but irrelevant when you look at the large picture. So many people are living paycheck to paycheck these days, looking for ways to save a few bucks. Perhaps that means not going out to eat at all anymore, but it could also mean avoiding paying a $7.00 toll returning from East Boston if you're coming from, say, Somerville, by either taking the long way around through Chelsea, taking the T if that's feasible, or simply eating closer to home than heading into East Boston for dinner.

            1. re: hiddenboston

              The toll hike puts an incredible burden on East Boston, unlike the burden on any other community - Can you imagine having to pay $7 to leave JP or Brookline by car? Of course it will unfairly impact restaurants here - There's no excuse for it; the Big Dig cost HAS to be shared among many communities, not JUST OURS. I want Angela's, Oran Cafe, Rincon Limeno, and the many wonderful places that make Boston a great place to live, to survive!

        3. Certainly for new restaurants, it is one more challenge with the current economy and its one more item to give pause to opening new restaurants. But there are a _lot_ of purveyors which do not require a toll to get to East Boston, but more traffic through that area will affect all companies given the current daytime traffic on 99. There are a lot of condos opening in the general area (a bunch in Chelsea, all those Malden apartments along Rt 1, Revere Beach, in a few years the Assembly Square condos), so there are people moving to the area interested in both ethnic and upscale dining. I hope the new additions can help ease the closings, although the City of Boston could do something to encourage the growth of East Boston. Given that parking can already be tight in Eastie, how about parking combined with shuttle service from South Boston (the silver line is almost this, but something that dropped you at restaurant doors would be nice). Or free parking to offset the tolls. Something to draw people from those nearby communities which are not directly linked by Blue line (revere) or bus (Chelsea) also would help.

          In any case, it makes Malden and East Somerville certainly more attractive, but I think there are some things the city of Boston could do in liu of development of condos in Eastie itself to attract people which could have more of an effect than the tolls.

          1. I make it a point to take the back way when I can, OK I'm frugal. On the plus side for Eastie and even Winthrop, I find the menu prices to be very reasonable and the food 'worth the drive'. So maybe the toll increase, argh, won't hurt to total bottom line. Also, I just saw gas on RT 1A in Revere for $1.89, what a screaming deal!

            1. Why don't you just take the blue line?

              5 Replies
              1. re: gini

                My thoughts. But at least that's not as out there as complaining about driving to the North End.

                1. re: gini

                  I guess I was thinking more of the big picture--sorry, I wasn't really clear on that (par for the course with me, I'm afraid!).

                  Me personally, I would certainly consider taking the Blue Line depending on the proximity of the given restaurant and the situation, but not everyone feels comfortable taking the subway, and for many older people and those who aren't able to walk all that far, a number of restaurants in Eastie are just too far away from the T.

                  So I guess what I'm saying is, if the tolls double in price, there's a good chance that a fair number of people will think twice before heading to East Boston, which means restaurants that are currently right at the edge might be in a lot of trouble if they lose 10% or 20% of their normal traffic.

                  On a side note, that Globe article mentioned that Ecco is worried because their suppliers in Chinatown aren't willing to trek to Eastie since the costs involved in getting there and back are high. If this is true, it will only get worse with a toll hike, I would think.

                  1. re: hiddenboston

                    Living in East Boston, we get the resident discount, so I certainly can't complain (until they do away with that). But I think we'd be less likely to have visitors come over and go out to eat in Eastie vs. us visiting them and going out in their neighborhood. (Our 40 cents vs. their $3.50 is acceptable, 40 cents vs. $7 not so much.) Obviously if there's a chowish place we really want to go to in Eastie, we'll suck it up and probably split the toll, but for less chowish dining, I could see a trend away from Eastie. As HB points out, some people are inclined away from the T for a number of reasons, be they mobility, quantity of children, or living well out on the Red Line where it can take > 1 hour at off-peak times vs. 15 minutes by car.

                    This is probably a small effect, and if they ditch the resident discount, all bets are off.

                    I am a bit more concerned about the business and delivery side of things that HB points out.

                    1. re: erwocky

                      Of course the increase in tolls will impact businesses, including restaurants, in East Boston -- while it may not sway wealthier diners from heading this way, it is certainly enough to have an impact on those of fewer means.

                      Interesting to note that the first rally about the proposed toll hikes will take place at Ecco (a restaurant) on December 3rd at 4pm. (See . Its not common for public demonstrations to take place at restaurants, so this event convinces me that the restaurant community in Eastie is and should be worried.

                      1. re: smooncakes

                        Ecco is also conveniently located right by the Sumner Tunnel tollbooths, so maybe there will be a martini-and-small-plates-fueled display of civil disobedience at the tunnel entrance.