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Mayor Walsh, MBTA Announce Fairmount Line Service Improvements

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MBTA votes to support City of Boston's Fairmount Line improvement proposals

BOSTON - Monday, January 27, 2020 - Mayor Martin J. Walsh and the MBTA today announced the Fiscal & Management Control Board (FMCB) has unanimously voted to support significant improvements to the Fairmount Line, a nine-mile commuter rail line serving Hyde Park, Mattapan and Dorchester. The improvements include a 20 percent increase in the number of weekday train trips and new fare readers that allow residents to ride the Fairmount Line using Charlie Cards. Improvements begin in May and will function as a one-year pilot. Mayor Walsh advocated for service enhancement and improved regional rail service across Greater Boston at the FMCB board in October, and the service improvements adopted today by the MBTA are a result of a pilot proposal designed by the City of Boston's Transportation Department. 

"The Fairmount Line serves the heart of Boston, running through many of our communities with the longest commutes and least access to high frequency transit," said Mayor Walsh. "Boston's relationship with the MBTA is one of the most important we have, and I will always advocate for the best possible service. This is an issue of transit equity, and it has been a top priority for me to bring better service to the Fairmount Line. I'm pleased the Board has voted to make these improvements. Together with the MBTA, we must continue to push for progress and improve mobility in our city and region."

Running from Readville to South Station, through Fairmount, Mattapan, Four Corners, Uphams Corner and Newmarket, the Fairmount Line is the MBTA's only commuter rail line entirely within the City of Boston.  This line serves Boston neighborhoods that have some of the longest commutes and the lowest average household incomes. It's the only commuter rail line where a majority of the riders are persons of color, and a majority of Boston's Black residents live within walking distance of the line.  It's also the line that, today, runs least frequently at peak periods.  

Currently, the Fairmount Line features 40 trips per day -- 20 inbound and 20 outbound -- and offers the lowest peak frequency service of any commuter rail line. Starting this May, the MBTA will add eight additional trips on the Fairmount Line.  The new trip times include additional early morning and late night service, which will help residents along the Fairmount Corridor access jobs with early or late start times in places like Newmarket and South Station.  

With the exception of the final station stop, the fare for the Fairmount Line is the same as the fare for the subway.  Riders, however, have been unable to pay with a subway pass or a Charlie Card. In May, new fare readers will be installed allowing residents to use Charlie Cards to pay.

"I'm pleased that we are able to deliver on improvements to the Fairmount Line that will result in meaningful improvements to service, including new technology that will allow for the use of CharlieCards for fare payment for the first time ever on Commuter Rail," said MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak.  "I want express my gratitude to Mayor Walsh and to the community of advocates along the corridor for their strong support for improved service and enhanced access to the line." 

This change is the second pilot that the FMCB has supported along the Fairmount Line.  In addition, the FMCB has also supported a pilot extension of the Fairmount Line to Foxboro, expanding access to the jobs and entertainment destinations there for Boston residents and better commuting options for residents in Foxboro to Boston. The FMCB has also recommended that the Fairmount Line be one of the first for transformation to an even higher frequency, electrified line. These efforts build on the State's long term investment in rebuilding and adding stations along the Fairmount Line, culminating in the opening of the Blue Hill Avenue Station in February of 2019.  

"These additional trips will benefit Boston Public School students, night-shift workers, and residents who have historically faced barriers to rapid transit," said State Senator Nick Collins. "All residents of Boston deserve access to affordable rapid transit, which we know breaks down barriers to gainful employment and economic mobility. This is a question of environmental justice, equity and opportunity, and I am committed to securing that for all residents." 

"Today's vote is yet another victory in the fight for transit equity on the Fairmount Line. Today's announcement of much needed increases in ride frequency and, equally as important, that riders will no longer be forced to pay extra to have two different MBTA passes shows our collective commitment to continue investing in the success of the Fairmount Line," said State Representative Daniel Cullinane. "Removing these final obstacles that may have stood in the way of the Fairmount Line reaching its full ridership potential is a tremendous win for everyone who relies on the Fairmount Line today and the countless more who now will be able to access this amazing public resource in the future." 

"Having served as Chair of Go Boston 2030, it is great to see this proposal come to fruition," said State Representative Russell Holmes. "We are meeting an objective to serve communities of color who have been historically underserved and who depend on this line as a link to more job opportunities throughout the city. Today's vote by the FMCB is a start to that commitment."  

These past investments, this spring's pilot, and the long term plan are all aligned with the community's, the City's and the State's vision for an enhanced and transformed Fairmount Line.

The City of Boston is investing heavily around commuter rail stations in neighborhoods along the Fairmount Line. An economic plan is underway at Newmarket Square; an arts and innovation district is being created at Uphams Corner; $11 million is being invested to improve Columbia Road adjacent to the Four Corners station; a multi-million dollar renovation of Harambee Park is in the works; and major roadways around the Blue Hill Avenue stop are being redesigned. Investments in public transit complement these advancements.

Advocating for a stronger regional rail system to be established over time, the City expects that this system would address congestion from private vehicles entering and exiting the city limits.  Additionally, it would lower emissions, meet climate goals, and improve public health, particularly if the rail system were electrified.   

To accelerate improvements in public transit, the City of Boston has invested in a dedicated Transit Team within the Boston Transportation Department that is working with the MBTA to improve service, and create innovative solutions. Progress has been made and efforts to further enhance public transit service will continue. Recent collaboration between the City of Boston and the MBTA has resulted in several achievements including:

  • Bus priority lanes that welcome bicyclists have been built on Washington Street in Roslindale, Brighton Avenue in Allston, and North Washington Street, offering quicker commutes for the thousands of people who ride on them each day.

  • MBTA passes have been made available to 7th through 12th grade students in all Boston schools.

  • Seniors have been protected from the MBTA fare increase.

  • Late night bus service has been provided to support third shift workers.

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