MBTA slow to think rapid on Fairmount Line

As the design for a new Four Corners station on the MBTA's Fairmount Line nears completion, and funding trickles in from the state, a gap between the community and the MBTA's intentions for the project is becoming more apparent.

The T presented the 60 percent stage of the Four Corners design last Wednesday, only to hear a short list of demands from the Greater Four Corners Action Coalition. Many of the same demands were made at previous meetings, but some have not yet had an affect on architectural drawings for the project.

"They're answer was it is a commuter rail line, but we always wanted it to be a rapid transit line," said Pamela Bush from the Coalition. "We don't want another cookie-cutter commuter rail station."

Community groups call their vision for the project the Indigo Line, which mixes the commuter rail's signature purple hue with the subway's terminology. They foresee a line traveled by Diesel Multiple Unit trains, which are similar to light rail vehicles but built for heavy rail with on-board diesel engines. They can stop and start quicker than the heavy locomotives currently in use, thus allowing more frequent service. The MBTA has never adopted the Indigo moniker, preferring to stick with 'Fairmount Line Improvements' for the project. Similarly, they have never talked positively of the DMU trains.

At the meeting, coalition and community members called for elevators, more benches and an inversion of the Y-shaped shelters standard at many commuter rail stations, things one might find at a Red, Green or Blue Line stop.

"The Y design of the canopy is one of the things we're really concerned about and my question is: Why?" said Bush. "Why would you design a canopy like that on top of a hill? If rain is falling down from the sky, how will that Y keep it off your head? We want a peaked roof."

To guard against the elements, the Coalition also recommended heating elements in the shelters. According to Bush, the T said it could install the wiring with an eye to the future, but not the elements themselves. T spokesperson Joe Pesaturo did not confirm this in an e-mail sent to the Reporter however, nor would he say whether demands for more benches, for a peaked roof or for covered walkways, another request, would be met.

On the matter of elevators, he was stoic. "The MBTA does not provide elevators at un-staffed commuter rail stations due to matters of maintenance, safety, and reliability."

And in answer to the golden question, whether the T considered the Fairmount Line improvements as steps toward rapid transit or the same old commuter rail, Pesaturo answered: "The Fairmount Line was designed and built for railroad service, and, for the immediate future, that's the manner in which it shall be operated. If future studies demonstrate the need for considering an alternative mode of service, then such proposals will certainly be closely examined."

The deadline for 100 percent design for Four Corners is set for Dec. 31. "We want to meet the deadline with the needs of the community being met," said Bush.

The next bit of funding for the project could come from the $2.9 billion transportation bond bill Gov. Deval Patrick filed on Nov. 29, if approved by the legislature. The bill dedicates $700 million to Central Artery mitigation commitments, which now include the Fairmount Line. Those commitments also include the $600 million Somerville and Medford Green Line extension and the Red Line-Blue Line connector between Government Center and Charles/MGH stations.

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