Quietly, newest T station now open for commuters

The Talbot Ave. commuter rail station opened Monday, November 12 to little fanfare, as many residents appeared to be unaware that the station was completed and ready for business.

Construction on the $15.9 million station began in November 2010. It is the first of four new stations on the Fairmount Line, which will also include stations at Four Corners/Geneva, Newmarket, and Blue Hill Avenue, as part of the T’s Fairmount Improvement project.

Four Corners/Geneva, which will be located between Washington Street and Geneva Avenue, and Newmarket, which will be located between the bridges at Southhampton Street and Massachusetts Avenue, are scheduled to open in the early spring and summer of 2013.

Groundbreaking for the Blue Hill Avenue station is expected to begin next year.

Schedule changes went into effect that Monday to accommodate the new Talbot Ave. stop. 

Jonathan Davis, the acting general manager of the MBTA, said the company worked very closely with the community as far as the design of the station and where it would be located.

He added that it serves a very densely populated area and that the T hopes it will bring in new riders and encourage current riders to use the commuter rail.

The fare is comparable to a subway ride, and provides a faster and quieter commute into town than the bus.

Right now, the ridership out of Talbot Ave. is light, but Davis said it is growing.

Davis did acknowledge that the fare for the Fairmount Line is higher at the Fairmount station in Hyde Park, but said it was something that the T was looking into.

The new station also has customer amenities such as canopies, benches, and 15 security cameras on the platform and walkways. Davis said the cameras – which residents have been asking for at the Morton St. station and just recently received -- will “give riders a sense of safety,”

“We appreciate the support from customers and the community,” Davis said.

Marcos Beleche, deputy director of the Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation, said the station has been good for the community.

But Beleche added that that the next concern the organization was going to work on was increasing the frequency of the commuter rail and getting fair and consistent fares across the board.

Currently, at the Fairmount Stop in Hyde Park, which is in Zone 1, the fare is $5.50, while at other stops, which are in Zone 1A, it is $2.00.
For people like the NDC’s executive director, Gail Latimore, who lives in Hyde Park but works in Dorchester, this is a discrepancy that may deter potential riders from using the commuter rail.

Generally, however, residents say they are happy with the station. Lem Williams, who lives next to the station, said he takes it to work and likes that it gets him there quickly.

“I just wish it ran Saturday and Sunday, and more often,” he said. “It runs about every hour, but the last train is at 9:45, and the one before that is at 7:45.”

While he has noticed more people boarding at Talbot Ave. in the morning, Williams felt the T didn’t do a particularly good job of advertising the new station. He also said there should be a fare machine inside the station.

Jason Miller, a Suffolk University graduate who also lives close to the station, said he didn’t see any marketing saying that the station was completed, even though he had seen the construction work being done prior to its opening.

Miller also said that he was surprised that the fare was the same as a subway ride, and thought the location of the station was a good choice.

“It’s a great location for those people that live around there because they all have to take the bus,” he said, “and you know how unreliable the bus is. But the train is quicker and more reliable.”

Ashley Catan, a Dorchester resident and student at Wentworth, said she was unaware that a new station was being built.

“They started doing a lot to that part of the street by adding crosswalks, street signs, yellow double lines and a stop light,” she said. “Then a train pops up out of nowhere.”

Catan also said she felt a commuter rail station should have been built in a more central location, like the one at South Station, or closer to Fields Corner.

According to the MBTA, the Fairmount Line – which starts at Readville and ends at South Station -- is the shortest of the commuter rail lines, and the only one that exclusively serves Boston. It is also the shortest line on the commuter rail, and will increase to nine stops once the four new stations are completed.