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Speaking near the future Blue Hill Avenue station on the Fairmount commuter rail line in Mattapan Thursday morning, Transportation Secretary Richard Davey was forced to pause just moments into his prepared remarks as a train sounded nearby.
"It's not stopping yet," he joked. "[Transportation is] about lifting communities. And that's what that train, we hope, will do for this community very soon."
Davey was among state officials gathered Thursday morning to announce a number of measures designed to make the Fairmount Line, which runs through Dorchester and Mattapan, more accessible, reliable and affordable to area residents.
Known to some as the Indigo Line, Fairmount is technically a commuter rail line, though it runs almost entirely inside the city of Boston.
It wasn't until recently that the train even stopped in Dorchester or Mattapan. For much of the line's history, trains from Milton breezed through the neighborhoods, which have little precious access to public transportation. Even now, it runs a commuter rail schedule of one train about every 45 minutes during rush hour, and once an hour the rest of the day.
"Access to opportunity is everything. If you can't get there, or if it takes too long to get there, then that opportunity is not real," said state Rep. Dan Cullinane, who represents Mattapan. "Quality rapid public transit like what's being announced today is fundamental to the equality both of our neighborhoods, and in every community of the city in Boston."
What's coming for neighborhoods served by the Fairmount Line is the promise of weekend service starting next month. A pilot program of running the line at subway rates will be made permanent, so residents from Dorchester and Mattapan won't have to pay the higher commuter rail fares to get into Boston.
Further into the future, the MBTA expects to open the new Blue Hill Avenue stop in 2017. And in 2018, the T will begin adding specialized rail cars that allow for more frequent service on weekends and during midday hours, when there is less demand.
Those cars, called diesel multiple units, or DMUs, are rail cars with locomotives that can fit on commuter rail tracks.
"One of the challenges we have in commuter rail, is we have six, seven, eight car trains that are built for rush hour. And we can't then run two or three car trains," Davey explained. "It's logistically impossible taking them apart and putting them back together again."
Davey said the DMUs, being purchased at a cost of $240 million for 30 units, will be primarily used on the Fairmount Line, but could be plugged in elsewhere if there's a use for them.
Once they go into service, he said a trip from Blue Hill Avenue to downtown Boston would take just 20 minutes.
"From here, from Blue Hill Ave, I challenge you, if you drive to downtown Boston, which I'm about to do, there's no way I will get to downtown Boston by car from here in 20 minutes," Davey said. "You will be when you jump on a train here at Blue Hill Ave."
More Fairmount Line Coverage:
This segment aired on October 16, 2014.
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