Fairmount advisors seek ways to broaden discussion about impacts

About 70 people attended a meeting of the Fairmount Indigo Planning Initiative at the Hyde Park Municipal Building on Tuesday evening. The purpose of the meeting, hosted by the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), was to gauge the interest of Mattapan residents in forming a Working Advisory Group (WAG), to give oversight to the creation of a new commuter rail stop at Blue Hill Ave./Cummins Highway.

The Fairmount Planning Initiative is a two-year BRA study to develop job access and capital investment along the MBTA’s Fairmount Commuter Rail line. Part of this would include adding more stops to the line, which currently has only six stations from Readville to South Station. The Fairmount line is the shortest in the transit system and the only one that exclusively serves Boston.

“The long-term goal is to turn Fairmount Corridor into rapid rail,” said Jeremy Rosenberger, co-director of the BRA. “That’s the game changer for this corridor.”

But before the BRA can begin construction on a new station, it first has to consider several factors regarding how the station will benefit the community. That translates to access, availability and equity, among other criteria. However, not everyone could agree on which communities should be considered.

Some on the Community Advisory Group (CAG) seemed to think the general consensus was that WAGs should be created for Talbot Ave. and Four Corners. Milly Arbaje-Thomas, director of ABCD Mattapan Family Service Center, disagreed, saying that they were too close together.

“It’s unfair to have them concentrated in Dorchester, with none in Mattapan or Hyde Park,” she said.

Jeanne Dubois, executive of Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation, agreed, saying, “Not having anything in Hyde Park or Mattapan is a huge mistake.”

Proposing a more equitable approach, residents and group members asked what could be “lost” by recommending three WAGs. It largely boiled down to economics, Rosenberger said. He argued that it was only financially feasible to do two at the moment.

Christian Williams, a board member at the Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation, noted that it was challenging to get residents to attend meetings, which made it difficult to prioritize a Fairmount WAG. Other communities, such as Talbot Ave., had more “momentum,” and were able to make a better argument.

Williams also argued a common concern about the fare structure across all stations on the Fairmount Line warranted a subcommittee focused specifically on that issue. The complaint –—that the fare at Fairmount station is higher than at the others — has been raised several times before, including at a “listening session” for MassDOT in November.

“The whole line loses if Fairmount doesn’t have fair fares,” Dubois said.

Increasing service hours on the line was also noted as an issue that would be suitable for a proposed

Marcia Thornhill, clerk of Southwest Boston Neighborhood Development Corporation, proposed that some consideration be given to creating a WAG-like group specifically dedicated to job and economic growth in Readville. Along the same lines, Mathew Thall of the Fairmount Indigo Line CDC, stressed the importance of resident participation and proposed adding Readville residents to the CAG.

Ultimately, Rosenberger ended, these meetings are merely the first step on the path to hopefully achieving WAGs in each community.

“There is continuous development after one process ends,” he said.