Two of our more forward thinking City Councilors, Sal LaMattina and Bill Linehan, recently proposed the idea of reviving ferry service between the various Boston waterfront neighborhoods, the North End, the Seaport, East Boston, South Boston and Charlestown.
I think this is a terrific plan and I hope it comes to fruition.
Those of us who live in the city experience the daily nightmare of trying to get around our city and going from neighborhood to neighborhood. Traffic in Boston is horrific and is getting worse. If you look at the Financial District and Downtown Crossing, you see a forest of construction cranes. Suddenly everyone wants to live and work in Boston. The problem is, all these people have cars and our old meandering, Colonial streets were not designed for this influx of automobiles.
Traffic patterns and stop lights in downtown Boston are designed to move commuters and tourists through Boston, in and out of the downtown area, but in doing that they are impeding intra-city travel. Last week, I went to a dinner meeting in the Seaport district at the old fish pier conference center. I had to drive because I needed my car for another stop. It took fifty minutes to get from Lewis Street in the North End to the fish pier. If we had a ferry I could have made the trip in ten minutes. This is wrong and the city planners at the Boston Redevelopment Authority have to step back and consider how to move people through and within the city before approving the mega-projects they have planned for downtown.
Years ago, we had many more choices for intra-city travel. We had a wonderful system of trolley cars that was abandoned in favor of busses which are causing many of our traffic problems. My grandfather never drove a car but he could take the trolley from his tavern on Lewis Street to his home in Medford, all for 10 cents.
We also had ferries and the post cards I’m sharing illustrate the old North End/East Boston ferry. This ferry brought passengers and automobiles from the ferry terminal on Atlantic Ave. about where the Pilot House is to the ferry terminal on Lewis St. in East Boston. I remember the cars lined up on Atlantic Ave. waiting to get on. I think the fare was 5 cents for a passenger and 25 cents for a car and on July 4th it was free.
In the mid Fifties, the old ferry terminal was closed and boarded up. Of course, we street kids knew how to sneak inside and explore the old building which was a great adventure. Last week, I was reminiscing with Paul Passacantilli about how we used to jig for eels and herring from the dilapidated ferry pier. Living on the waterfront was great fun.
Boston has one of the most beautiful harbors of any major city in the country. Having a robust ferry service between the many city neighborhoods which border the harbor will help relieve traffic and improve the quality of life for those of us who actually live in the city. Congratulations to Sal and Bill for getting this dialog started.
Nicholas Dello Russo is a lifelong North Ender and columnist. Often using vintage photographs, Nick tells the stories of growing up in the North End along with its culture and traditions. It was a time when the apartments were so small that residents were always on the streets enjoying “Life on the Corner.” Read more of Nick’s columns.