On Monday morning, a handful of brave souls, buffeted by near-hurricane gusts of icy wind, stood on the brand-new Blue Hill Avenue station platform, waiting to be among the first passengers to enjoy a new and quicker commute to South Station from Mattapan Square.
Most of those waiting, including Keon Jones, were cold, but happy. “I’m excited, man. This is gonna cut down my commute so much,” he said.
Until Monday, Jones had made his way to his job downtown in a roundabout way, walking from his home on Hollingsworth Street to Mattapan Square to board the trolley and then transfer to a Red Line train at Ashmont to travel seven stops inbound to South Station. The trek took about an hour.
On Monday, he left home, walked a few steps across the street to the new station, and hopped on a commuter-rail train that zipped him to South Station in 23 minutes.
The new facility, an 800-foot-long stretch of platform between Blue Hill Avenue and Cummins Highway, with wheelchair-accessible ramps at each end, opened Monday after years of design and construction at a cost $19 million. It is the fourth and final Fairmount Line stop – along with the Talbot Avenue, Newmarket, and Four Corners/Geneva Avenue stations – that were mandated as part of a Big Dig-related lawsuit.
For a community that has long been underserved by public transportation, the station represents another step toward addressing that disparity. Until now, residents living near the three-mile stretch of track between the Fairmount and Morton Street stations had little public transportation options besides an aging trolley system.
David Arbuckle, a customer service representative from Keolis who was manning the platform Monday morning, estimated that about 50 people had used the station that morning. “And every one of them seems thrilled,” he noted.
At least one passenger, however, was less than thrilled. Vivian Ortiz, coordinator of the Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition, was disappointed after riding her bike to the station Monday morning to find there was no place to park it.
“I was fuming when I discovered there is no bike parking at the brand new station!!” Ortiz wrote on Monday, relaying her displeasure on Twitter along with a picture of her bike chained to a pole on the platform. “You've had 2+ years to get it right.”
While the Fairmount Line does sometimes allow passengers to bring their bicycles on board, that capability is limited to off-peak train schedules.
Under the current Fairmount Line schedule, a train stops at the station roughly every 45 minutes during peak commute hours and once every hour the rest of the day. That timetable includes five “peak” trains each morning and afternoon. As the station is located in Zone 1A, riders can pay a one-way fare of $2.25 or purchase a monthly pass for $84.50.
Arbuckle predicted that people will be pleased with the service at the new station. “This is a real reliable line,” he said. “Because it’s so short, it’s almost always on time.”
He added that the new station had been decked out with several modern improvements, including an automated voice announcement system, an LED lighting system, and security cameras.
MBTA and state and city officials will celebrate the official opening of the station with a ceremony on March 6 at 1:30 p.m.