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MBTA approves Fairmount Line pilot program

Kenneal Patterson

A Fairmount Line pilot program will commence in May of this year, adding eight trips per day to the commuter rail line, which runs through Mattapan, Dorchester and Roxbury. The project is aimed at providing increased frequency and greater accessibility and permitting CharlieCard usage. The pilot is set to run for 12 months.

“We’re hoping it will become a permanent part of the service,” Mela Miles, a member of the Greater Four Corners Action Coalition, told the Banner.

The MBTA predicts that the pilot program will increase daily ridership by approximately 400 trips and will include more late-night and early-morning service. Trains will depart stations past midnight and in the early hours of the morning: an inbound train will leave from Readville at 5:10 am.

“The early morning workers need to get to their jobs,” said Miles. “This train will leave much earlier so people can get to their jobs.”

The new schedule could also help students heading home from school, as it adds intermittent stops from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. at both Readville and South Station.

Miles said that people don’t only use the Fairmount Line for work — but rather, for “reverse commutes.” People use it for stops within the community in the morning and early afternoon.

“This line gets people where they’re going within the line, station to station,” she said.

Fatima Ali-Salaam, chair of the Mattapan Neighborhood Council, said that the Fairmount Line has not been designed for those that live nearby. She said that transportation systems should be built, first and foremost, for the residents.

“The tiresome part for those in Mattapan has been that we’ve been an afterthought for years,” she told the Banner.

Ali-Salaam said that the Fairmount Line caters to businesses, especially those that need workers to commute. Instead, it should accommodate the people that “live, work, and play” in the area.

“There are people who can only rely on public transit,” she said. “So when buses break down, or trains break down … it affects how they get to work, it affects whether they’re able to work. There are a lot of people who are hourly workers and depend on a reliable transportation system.”

Miles said that transit is central to everyone’s life. It can also be a major cost factor in a family budget.

“We need to have affordable transportation that goes where we need to go, when we want to go, at a price we can afford,” she said.

With affordability and convenience in mind, CharlieCard usage is one advantage of the pilot program. People can now tap their CharlieCards for Zone 1A service on the Fairmount Line rather than download an app to ride. Zone 1A includes all in-city trips except those to or from Readville. It also allows for transfers to the Red and Silver Lines at South Station.

“Having the ability to use the CharlieCard directly, without having to download a separate app on your phone … is very convenient for a lot of people,” said Ali-Salaam. “There are a lot of people that pay for a monthly pass.”

Miles stressed the importance of equitable transportation. She said that it takes much longer for people in her community to get around, especially when spending hours on buses.

“It’s been shown that black people spend 64 more hours per year on buses than white people,” she said. “One reason is situations like this.”

The original vision for the Fairmount Line, said Miles, was to make it rapid-transit. The “Indigo Line” would add to the existing system of green, orange, red and blue lines.

“The goal was to give it a color designation and name,” said Miles. “Just like the red, orange, green, blue and other lines, that are rapid transit, like subway service.”

The proposed start date for the pilot program is May 18. Miles stressed the importance of informing the community of the change.

“The inequity was that when things were built, or things were opened, or schedules were changed, we as advocates had to go and make sure it was marketed properly,” she said. She added that when a train runs for years as once an hour, people expect it to run once an hour. Rather than just posting flyers about MBTA schedule changes, efforts should be made to fully inform people about changes in their community.

“It’s our tax dollars that went in to pay for it ….We already paid for it, so we deserve to get what we paid for,” she said. “And people need to know more about it, it needs to be marketed properly. Even this pilot needs to be marketed properly so that people know it’s running more frequently.”

Miles said that equity is about not treating one community better than another.

“We deserve the best too. We fought long and hard for this line, and it should go to the people that fought for that,” she said.

Public transportation is central to Boston’s infrastructure, and the new pilot program could change the lives of thousands of residents in Mattapan and Dorchester.

“This is a lifeline to our communities,” said Miles.

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