T reduces fares, offers transfers to attract riders
As extensive renovations to the Fairmount Line near completion, two new stations on the commuter rail corridor will open next Monday, July 1. Newmarket Station, located north of the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge and adjacent to the South Bay Center, and Four Corners/Geneva Station, situated between Washington Street and Geneva Avenue, are both poised to offer expanded transportation options to Dorchester residents.
The new stations will also roll out a pilot program that includes an updated schedule  and lower fares on the Fairmount Line, changes that local activists say will make the rail option more viable. The fare from Fairmount Station to South Station will be $2, effective July 1. The fare from Readville at the end of the Fairmount Line to South Station will remain at $6.
The commuter rail line is not equipped to read CharlieCards, so commuters will need to purchase a LinkPass – available at any automated MBTA kiosk – to take advantage of this reduced-fare pilot program.
According to MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott, the program also offers commuters the option of transferring from the commuter rail without paying an additional fee, providing full integration with the buses and T lines through the LinkPass.
“The ridership [in the Fairmount Corridor] is the least productive of any of our commuter rails,” said Scott, adding that the MBTA is hoping for a 20 percent increase in ridership over the next 12 months.
In addition to the lower fare program, the MBTA plans to reach out to the community to make locals aware of the new services offered by the Line. “It’s really a community partnership with us, advocates within the community, and the community development corporations. We’re actually partnering up with them for marketing and community outreach,” said Scott, who added that an official community event celebrating the new stations is currently in the works for July 17.
Scott stressed the importance of making sure commuters understand how to utilize the reduced fare program with LinkPasses.
Addressing the public interest in weekend service on the Fairmount Line, Scott said that although she believes the desire for this extended service is positive, ridership would need to improve greatly before that service could be offered.
She also said that while she doesn’t foresee the Fairmount Line becoming a full, rapid-transit line akin to the Red Line, the MBTA has identified the Fairmount Corridor as a hypothetical pilot area for alternative train types such as diesel multiple units, or DMUs.
Scott hopes that the changes made to the Fairmount Line will make a positive impact on the Dorchester community. “The investments we make in transportation help to create jobs, stimulate economic growth, and promote healthy communities with better air quality,” said Scott, emphasizing the significance of environmental awareness in the transportation industry.
Damian Marciante owns and operates Victoria’s Diner on Massachusetts Avenue across from the Newmarket station. He said that local businesses have been lobbying for the lower fares – most recently at a meeting in early June – and are excited about the economic opportunities that the Fairmount Line improvements might bring.
Citing still-high unemployment rates in the area, Marciante said that Newmarket is “one of the fastest growing industrial areas” in Boston. He hopes that Fairmount’s new stations and lower fares will make Newmarket more accessible for both customers and workers. However, he expressed some reservations about the new schedule that will be implemented on July 1.
“[The Fairmount Line] is not going to run as often as the T would, which makes scheduling difficult,” Marciante said, referring to his employees who live locally and could use the Fairmount line to commute to the diner.
Mela Bush, lead community organizer for the Greater Four Corners Action Coalition (GFCAC), said she grew up in Four Corners and remembers that the tracks of the Fairmount Line were barely used. Bush has been working on the Fairmount Line project in concert with the Four Corners community to bring “more equitable transit” to residents. She said that GFCAC Executive Director Marvin Martin has put the Fairmount Line high on the organization's priority list.
Bush said that Fairmount Line’s lower fare plan is a victory for local activists, and that they are still lobbying for weekend service on the commuter rail. “It’s about getting people into Four Corners, but it’s also about getting out [of Four Corners] for access to jobs up and down the line, and for residents to be able to experience Boston in a new way,” said Bush.
With over $200 million already invested in the Fairmount Line, the project will come to a close with the completion of the final new station between Blue Hill Avenue and Cummins Highway overpasses.