When you think about it, it’s a wonder we don’t already have to shell out a few bucks for the unique pleasure of picking up our friends and loved ones at Logan.
Randomly occurring standstill traffic jams on, say, Saturday mornings are the kind of rare treat people in many other cities only dream about. And every time a state trooper brusquely waves you away from the pickup area while a dozen other cars idle unmolested at the curb, you surely think, “I can’t believe I’m getting this for free!”
It’s like they’ve been giving away box seats at Fenway, really.
But we might soon have to pay for the privilege of “Mad Max”-ing our way through a furious horde of taxis and Ubers to get to Terminal C. Massport, as part of a deal with an environmental advocacy group, is studying the possibility of imposing a fee on drivers who visit Logan.
The Conservation Law Foundation’s aim in pushing for the study is to dissuade people from driving — a noble goal, as Logan prepares to add thousands of parking spaces and the roads become ever more congested with pollution-spewing vehicles.
But it’s hard to imagine an amount of money that would be as punitive as that drive sometimes is.
Setting aside tolls for the tunnels, which already feel like airport fees, anyone who thinks dropping someone off at Logan is free has never asked their spouse for a ride to the airport on a weekday morning. You already pay dearly, that’s for sure. A couple of bucks would barely register. Just think about how many people already pay absurd amounts for taxis and Ubers, bills that can approach three figures to and from distant suburbs.
Pushing people toward public transit — or, really, away from their cars — is good policy.
If everybody keeps driving, the ignominy of a drive to Logan will only worsen as departures from the airport increase. But it would be nice if there were some real positive incentives. If there were some carrots on offer, such as earmarking the proposed fees for tangible transit improvements, then the increasingly vicious beatings with the stick might be easier to take.
Instead the sticks just keep getting bigger. Take the Silver Line, which appears designed to make being herded around the airport like cattle seem more pleasant by comparison.
Fly into Logan, fight your way off your plane, then stand around with your luggage for 15 or 20 minutes while the countdown clock for the next bus somehow goes up instead of down. When a bus finally arrives, it’s mobbed, so be prepared to wield your roller bag like a weapon while the bus ambles from terminal to terminal, and then wait at a red light in Southie so interminable that graduate students have studied it.
A trip home to Quincy Center last week — that’s just one transfer, to the Red Line — took well over two hours. The T doesn’t charge for Silver Line pickups at the airport, so it’s free as long as you consider your time, patience, and sanity to be valueless. But it’s kind of a soul-crushing epilogue after a day spent exploring the various indignities of modern air travel. Now imagine doing it with kids on the way home from a family vacation.
And trying to catch an early flight that way — particularly if you rely on the commuter rail — is often completely untenable. The Blue Line, which connects to Logan via a shuttle, is pretty good although not terribly convenient for many people. But some commuter lines don’t connect directly to the Silver Line, which is the only line that goes directly to Logan; some that do don’t even get to South Station until well after 6 a.m. at the earliest. Dozens of flights departed Logan before 8 a.m. this morning.
Increased Silver Line and shuttle service, which the Conservation Law Foundation also sought in exchange for agreeing not to challenge Massport’s new parking lot, might help. The lot itself might help some, too: People who park at the airport are still driving, but they’re making half as many trips as those getting dropped off and picked up, or taking taxis and Ubers. But Boston’s entire transit network is notoriously dysfunctional and limited; a few more bendy buses won’t change that, unless the rest of the system gets stronger, too.
Massport head Thomas Glynn sounded skeptical about the idea when he spoke with the Globe’s Adam Vaccaro. This is telling, because the last time you heard an official turn a nose up at a new revenue source was approximately never.
If you want to dissuade people from driving, you ought to give them another feasible option. Otherwise, the fee is just a cash grab.Nestor Ramos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NestorARamos.