The MBTA, at the urging of Mayor Martin Walsh, is looking at increased service on the Fairmount Commuter Rail Line, which runs through areas where public transportation long has been spotty.
The T, which is considering changes to the entire Commuter Rail system, will consider a pilot program starting next year that would add eight off-peak trips every weekday, a proposal Boston submitted in response to the T’s call for new ideas.
The Fairmount Line runs from South Station through Newmarket Square, Four Corners, Mattapan Square and Hyde Park — all low income, often largely minority communities transit planners of the past largely skipped when drawing up the subway routes around the city.
“One-fifth of Boston’s population lives along the nine-mile route of the Fairmount Line. Eighty-three percent of those residents are black or Latino. They need and they deserve better service,” Walsh said in prepared testimony to the MBTA’s oversight board. “We’re making investments in these communities — from Newmarket, to Uphams Corner, to Mattapan Square, to Readville. We need investments in public transit to unlock their full potential.”
The T recently has built several stations along the line — which is part of the “Indigo Line” plan the T has floated over recent years — including the Blue Hill Avenue station near Mattapan Square, which opened in February.
Staci Rubin of the Conservation Law Foundation said, “These neighborhoods have been overlooked for far too long.”
The T and Keolis Commuter Services, which operates the Commuter Rail, have made the price of this line equivalent to a normal subway ride. Ridership had increased dramatically over the past few years — a rarity among T lines — but advocates say the frequency of trains, which remains more like the Commuter Rail than the subway, continues to prevent the lines from being truly convenient.
State Rep. Dan Cullinane, whose district includes portions of Mattapan and Dorchester, said, “Let’s remove the last hurdle for people riding the line.”
The Fiscal & Management Control Board didn’t take any action on the pilot proposal during Monday’s meeting. The board is slated to vote on a raft of pilots in January, though T staff suggested that the board could consider the Fairmount Line pilot earlier than that.
The T is in the middle of a “visioning exercise for the whole Commuter Rail system, after which the agency will settle on one of six alternatives for the system’s future. Those range from general upgrades to a massive — possibly at upwards of $40 billion — overhaul to move the system from commuter schedules to a giant, electrified subway-like system that runs in all directions all day.