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MBTA installs CharlieCard readers at Fairmount Line stations

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the Banner’s senior editor. VIEW BIO
MBTA installs CharlieCard readers at Fairmount Line stations
A Fairmount Line train at the Four Corners stop. BANNER FILE PHOTO

Back in 2006, when new stations were being planned for Mattapan Square, Four Corners and Newmarket, state Department of Transportation officials embraced the idea of transforming the Fairmount commuter rail into a rapid transit line.

Now, 14 years later, the stations are built, but the line runs at 40-minute intervals during rush hour and one-hour intervals off peak — hardly qualifying as rapid transit.

During the COVID pandemic, trains have been running only at one-hour intervals, but the line will soon inch one step closer to functioning as a rapid transit line with the installation of CharlieCard readers on station platforms.

“Ever since the T started the CharlieCard system, we’ve been working to get CharlieCard access on the Fairmount Line,” said Mela Miles, an organizer with the Greater Four Corners Action Coalition and a member of the Fairmount Indigo Transit Coalition and the T Riders Union. “This is a long-awaited announcement.”

The readers, due to come online May 18, will allow riders to tap their cards before boarding their trains, then make free transfers to buses along the route and trains at South Station. Until now, riders without monthly passes were required to pay cash to board the trains and were not allowed free transfers.

“This is a great first step,” said 1st Suffolk District state Sen. Nick Collins, who has advocated for measures to increase service on the line. “People will feel this in their wallets. They won’t have to pay twice to ride downtown.”

Collins credited community groups and Mayor Martin Walsh for advocating for better service on the line.

For decades, the Fairmount Line ran through the Roxbury and Dorchester neighborhoods home to the majority of the city’s black population without making stops. In the 1990s, activists with the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative led efforts to persuade the T to open a station at Dudley Street.

By 2006, the MBTA began construction on the Newmarket, Four Corners and Mattapan Square stations. Although the administration of Gov. Deval Patrick committed to increasing service along the line by replacing the commuter rail cars with faster, lighter train cars capable of running rapid transit service, the administration of Gov. Charlie Baker backed off of that commitment.

In February, Baker administration officials agreed to study the feasibility of electrifying the route, a move that would enable MBTA officials to utilize electric train cars capable of providing faster service.

The Fairmount Indigo Transit Coalition takes its name from the Indigo Line name that MBTA officials were considering using for the Fairmount Line once it transforms into a rapid transit line. Progress has been slow, but Miles said coalition members are happy to see the card readers being installed.

Trains on the Fairmount Line are currently running on a once-an-hour schedule, but Miles said that may change when the state’s stay-at-home order is lifted. With the new card readers up and running, Miles hopes commuters will have one more reason to try the train line.

“Riders won’t have to decide to ride the train based on CharlieCard use,” she said.

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