BOSTON — The MBTA is taking a major step in upgrading service along the Fairmount commuter rail line that runs through the heart of some of Boston’s most densely populated, underserved neighborhoods.
On July 1, the T will open two new stations in Dorchester — at Four Corners/Geneva Avenue and Newmarket, adjacent to the South Bay shopping center — and bring fares in line with those paid by subway and bus customers.
The Fairmount line snakes along a 9-mile corridor from Hyde Park to South Station, cutting through the neighborhoods of Dorchester and Mattapan for decades without stopping.
“It was really an issue of transportation justice, or injustice, you may say,” said Marvin Martin of the Greater Four Corners Action Coalition. His group has been waging a campaign for service on the line since 2000. “We had a train that ran through our neighborhood and the only thing we ever got from it was diesel fume.”
The line first opened in 1855 and was used for passenger service for nearly a century. Then in the 1940s, though the train kept running from Hyde Park to South Station, it ceased making stops along the way.
“From the point that it passes through the overpass on Washington Street, it takes 10 minutes to get to South Station,” Martin explained. “From that same point people catching the bus, first of all you have to transfer, and it takes them 45 minutes to an hour depending on the time of the day.”
At a recent forum for mayoral candidates, Mela Bush, who has lived along the line for most of her life and is also a part of the Greater Four Corners Action Coalition, said giving city residents access to the Fairmount line is not only fair, but is also good for the environment.
“We’re in a climate emergency and we must do everything we can to reduce climate change,” she said. “And we all need to utilize public transit resources like the [Fairmount] line as often as possible.”
Community groups fought for stops in their neighborhoods, finally winning a commitment from the MBTA for upgraded tracks and restored stations at Uphams Corner in Dorchester and Morton Street in Mattapan, plus four new stations along the line.
But affordability has been a big issue for many, including Ana Rodriguez who lives in Dorchester and commutes to Hyde Park. Currently, passengers have to pay commuter rail fares, which, depending how far you travel, can cost as much as $6 on the line.
“If I take the Fairmount line to work it would only take me four minutes, but it would cost me $5.50,” Rodriguez said. “There’s no way that I can afford to do this on a regular basis. Therefore, I’m forced to commute for like an hour by taking two buses. And I only have to pay $1.50.”
Next week, fares will operate in the same way they do on the subway.
MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott says the T has spent $200 million to bring the Fairmount line back to life, creating new stops in underserved neighborhoods, opening old stops that had been closed for decades, and lowering fares.