The state’s top transportation official visited the Mattapan public library branch on Blue Hill Avenue last Thursday for a “listening session” aimed at mapping out future infrastructure in the neighborhood— and to hear complaints about existing problems. Transportation Secretary Richard Davey was on hand along with several other MassDOT officials as part of the agency’s “Your Vision, Our Future” series.
Frank DePaola, administrator of MassDOT’s highway division, said the purpose of the meeting was to see “just what it is the Commonwealth of Massachusetts wants to see in the future investment in transportation and transportation infrastructure.”
DePaola stressed the fact that the meeting was a public hearing and not a Q&A and that the officials would only be making note of the suggestions.
State Rep. Linda Forry said, “In Massachusetts, we have 351 cities and towns.[MassDOT] is only having 15 meetings around the state and they are here in Mattapan. We are thankful that you came here so you could listen to us, and really, to the community at large. “
Several of the 50 or so residents that turned out for the meeting were concerned with the discrepancy in fares on the Fairmount commuter rail line, which has been expanded in recent years in Dorchester and Mattapan.
Marilyn Forman, lead organizer for the Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation, said, “On the Fairmount Line, we still need to push for fairer fares. At the Hyde Park stop, there is a higher fare, and we need consistency across the board.”
Forman also said the Fairmount service should be available on nights and weekends.
“It’s wonderful and we’re at a good place right now, but we’ve still got a ways to go,” she said.
Gail Latimore, executive director of Codman Square NDC and a Hyde Park resident, echoed her colleague’s comment about increasing the frequency of the Fairmount Line and making fares consistent. Latimore also said the department should invest in signage for commuter rail stops, especially for the new stop that just opened last week on Talbot Ave.
Colleen Roberts, a Hyde Park resident, said she felt there needed to be a stop between Mattapan and Cleary Square.
“There’s no way people along River Street going toward Cleary Square can access the Fairmount Line unless they get on the bus to Cleary Square and get on at Fairmount,” she said. Roberts said she also wanted the MBTA to survey its customers on dependability, cleanliness, and other factors.
Allentza Michel, a community liaison for the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, said there were limited transportation options in Mattapan, especially for marginalized groups.
“There have been a lot of innovative things happening that continue to exclude communities of colors, working class groups, and particular neighborhoods or parts of municipalities that are not viable,” she said. “For example, we have this great Hubway station, but it will probably be a long time before we see one in Mattapan.”
Secretary Davey thanked residents for voicing their concerns and said the hearings were “not for show.”
“The governor always talks about generational responsibility, and leaving the Commonwealth a better place than we found it,” Davey said. “[Transportation] is about jobs and economic development, it’s about our communities and it’s about taking care of some business.”
Davey said transportation hasn’t been properly funded or fixed in 20 years and that MassDOT needed residents’ help moving things forward.
“The only reason why we’re building a Fairmount corridor is because you rose up,” Davey said. “And we need that kind of attention and advocacy again.”
“We’re at a crossroads in transportation for either a renaissance or a rollback,” he said.
The next Boston MassDOT meeting will be held Thursday, Nov. 29 at the Transportation Building, 10 Park Plaza, from 6 to 8 p.m.