Editorial: Fairmount Line's promise comes into focus at last

It has taken a full-court-press from our political delegation – and sustained pressure over many years from transit advocates – but this week finally brought concrete movement in the right direction for the Fairmount Line.

On Monday, the Fiscal Management and Control Board that oversees the MBTA voted unanimously to add eight train trips per day to the line between Readville and South Station. Just as important: Commuters will soon be able to use their Charlie Cards or other passes to generate a ticket to ride the trains using kiosks that will be installed in time for the year-long pilot effort, which will launch in May.

Jarred Johnson, COO of the advocacy group Transit Matters, called it “an incredible first step.” He tweeted: “Thrilled that the City of Boston found a way to work with [MBTA] and [Keolis] to do more with less! Next stop: fast electrified trains!”

Credit goes to state lawmakers, too, for embracing what the ridership has long known – that the Fairmount needs more frequent stops to capitalize on the investments that have been poured into the line over the last decade in the form of four new stations: Newmarket, Four Corners, Talbot Avenue, and — just last year— Blue Hill Avenue.

Sen. Collins, Rep. Cullinane, Rep. Holmes and Rep. Miranda (who has picked up the cause that had been championed by her predecessor in the 5th Suffolk, Rep. Carvalho) all were critical to advancing the ball.

“These additional trips will benefit Boston Public School students, night-shift workers, and residents who have historically faced barriers to rapid transit,” said Collins. “All residents of Boston deserve access to affordable rapid transit, which we know breaks down barriers to gainful employment and economic mobility.”

It must be noted, too, that the Fairmount has a sincere ally in the general manager’s office at the MBTA. Steve Poftak’s support for the pilot project has been key to getting buy-in from other decision makers in the state transportation community.

The pilot project that was approved Monday is a scaled-back version of what the state lawmakers and the mayor have been pushing for. Still, if properly executed, it provides an opportunity to show what this line could truly become if a more robust investment is made in equipment and maintenance.

Monday’s board vote authorized $100,000 to be spent on marketing the enhanced schedule on the Fairmount Line. New and improved stations, more frequent and on-time trains, and the proximity to densely populated sections of Dorchester and Mattapan should make this a far more viable option for commuters. But it’s important that the T and Keolis put some real effort into getting the word out that this is not the Fairmount Line of a decade ago.

There remains skepticism among those who grew frustrated with inconvenient schedules or who have never given the commuter rail a shot, perhaps because they already owned a Charlie Card, which cannot currently be used to buy fares on the Fairmount. That will change in May and it’s critical that we start to get the word out now.

– Bill Forry