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Cambridge has never been kind to the free market. From strict zoning laws to the aggressive efforts of Harvard Square preservationists, consumers have not been much in favor in this city.
But in a win for cost- and convenience-conscious Cantabridgians, last month, over the objections of the Cambridge City Council, a statewide regulatory agency approved a license for the U.S. Shuttle company to operate a van service to Logan Airport. Cambridge had been the only city in the Boston area without airport shuttle service.
Students and residents will no longer be forced to choose between a $25 wild cab ride down the Charles and an 85-cent, hour-long trek on a rainbow of subway lines with suitcases in tow. Finally, the city has cleared the way for the logical, environment-friendly alternative: mass surface transportation to the airport.
U.S. Shuttle's 10-person vans leave Johnston Gate for Logan at 50 minutes past the hour on weekdays. During the evenings and on weekends, vans pick up passengers by reservation. The cost is a reasonable $8, and the travel time to Logan a reasonable 35 minutes.
The shuttle service has been so popular thus far that extra vans have been added for the most popular trips.
The main objectors to the new shuttles have been taxi drivers and their allies on the city council, who claim that the Cambridge taxi industry will be devastated, which will hurt the poor and the elderly. Indeed, the status quo is a convenient way for the city council to impose its redistributional agenda on travelers, most of whom don't vote. While commendable for its cleverness, this scheme is more than a bit shady.
It is hard not to sympathize with the taxi drivers' need to support themselves. The city of Cambridge should reduce or scrap the $85,000 medallion fee for taxicabs and let them compete fairly with the shuttle.
By making travel to and from Cambridge easier, the shuttles will improve local quality of life. The time saved by not relying on the T to get to the airport may be more productively spent at work or at play. Fewer taxis zooming in and out of the Square will mean less traffic and less pollution. And the money not used on taxi fare may be spent in Cambridge's shops and restaurants.
Moreover, the shuttle's impact on cab demand may be less significant than some believe. Cambridge's poor are more likely to rely on the Boston area's extensive public transportation system than on taxi service. The elderly can still call cabs for door-to-door service. And plenty of people will continue to prefer the immediate availability of a cab to waiting for a shuttle or calling for one in advance.
More choice for consumers means more convenience, more price competition and less-stressed Cantabridgians--three reasons we extend a hearty and long-overdue welcome to U.S. Shuttle.
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