Fairmount line electrification takes step forward as transportation bill advances – Oct. 13, 2023
Bill Would Require MBTA to Create Plan for Electrification by July 2025
BOSTON – Thursday, October 13, 2023 – The impending closure of Red Line service on the Ashmont Branch between JFK/UMass and Ashmont Station, and the Mattapan Line between Ashmont and Mattapan stations, highlights the urgent need for transportation reform and electrification of the Fairmount Line.
The Joint Committee on Transportation voted on Monday, June 12, 2023 to advance a bill that would finally lay the groundwork for electrification of the Fairmount Commuter Rail Line. After many years of delays, the draft bill would for the first time require the MBTA to create a plan for electrification by July of 2025.
Sponsored in the Massachusetts House by Representative Brandy Fluker Oakley (12th Suffolk) and in the Massachusetts Senate by Senator Liz Miranda (2nd Suffolk), H.3908/S.2402 An Act improving rail service on the Fairmount commuter rail line will help improve transit service to one of the most diverse and densely populated areas of Boston. The bill would also help to advance environmental goals set by Governor Maura Healey that call for all modes of public transportation to operate on 100 percent clean power by 2040.
In light of the upcoming Red Line closures, it is more apparent than ever that we need to take meaningful strides towards electrifying the Fairmount Line and providing an equitable public transportation experience for all,” said Representative Brandy Fluker Oakley (D-Mattapan). This legislation is essential to mitigating environmental harms to predominantly Black and Brown communities in the Commonwealth, as well as providing a more stress-free transit experience. There is no time to delay electrification. Our neighbors’ health and livelihoods depend on it.”
As the only commuter rail line running entirely within Boston, the Fairmount Line helps to fill an important transit gap for portions of the Dorchester, Mattapan and Hyde Park communities. The service area is located between the southern halves of the Orange and Red subway lines, which can be challenging for residents to access. Thanks to years of community advocacy, the Fairmount commuter line runs every 45 minutes instead of every hour as other commuter lines do. The line also sets fare prices equal to those of a subway pass for stops running from South Station to Hyde Park, while reverting to standard commuter fares at the line terminus in Readville.
“It’s timely in this moment to expand efforts to electrify the Fairmount line, which would increase frequency and improve overall service for riders, improve air pollution in our environmental justice communities along the Fairmount line and expand economic development opportunities for small-owned and diverse small businesses,” said Senator Liz Miranda
For years, neighborhood and transportation advocates have urged city and state officials to do more to improve service on the Fairmount commuter line by raising numerous environmental and equity concerns. Residents have long complained about noise and diesel pollution created by frequent trains running along the route. Many attribute the high rates of asthma in the community to a near-constant idling of trains undergoing repair at the Readville Interim Repair Facility, which is a MBTA commuter rail maintenance facility and layover yard. Electrification of theFairmount commuter line would help to mitigate many of these problems.
“TransitMatters applauds the advancement of H.3908/S.2402 and the leadership of Rep. Fluker Oakley, and we look forward to seeing the T’s plans for Fairmount Line electrification. For too long, communities along the Fairmount line have been denied the frequent, reliable transit service they deserve,” said Transit Matters Chief Operating Officer, Jarred Johnson. An electrified Fairmount Line will provide subway-like service, cut emissions, speed up commutes, and take cars off the road. An electrified commuter rail system will help the Commonwealth meet its housing, climate, and equity goals, and there’s no better place to start than the Fairmount line.”
Although many transportation advocates and civic groups had hoped the bill would guarantee full electrification as soon as 2025, its requirement that the MBTA create a plan for electrification no later than July 1, 2025 was seen as a significant first step in progress for the issue. The bill addresses several additional priorities for the Fairmount commuter line by extending subway fare pricing all the way to Readville, by requiring improved coordination of bus service to its commuter rail stations, and by rebranding the route as the Fairmount/Indigo line in order to more clearly communicate the community’s vision for this route to eventually operate as Boston’s next subway line.
“FITC members are proud of our twenty plus year history in working in partnership with our legislators, the MBTA, MBCR/Keolis as well as community stakeholders. There is still so much more to do. We need to bring electrification to the system urgently, reducing emissions, bringing about transportation equity, and shorter wait times for trains, along with consistent fares, said Co-chair for the Fairmount Indigo Transit Coalition, Marilyn E Forman. Our communities historically have been lacking in these things. Community residents have experienced health disparities attributed to poor air quality, which the diesel-fueled Fairmount Line contributes to. This is a red flag that should be addressed sooner than later. It’s past time for these things to happen. No more profits over people. We need the bill to be heard and passed through The House and Senate, and sent off to the Governor for her signature.”
The bill is now in Ways & Means before any full consideration of the Massachusetts House and Senate. If approved and jointly voted on by each Chamber, it will then go to Governor Healey’s desk for her signature and final implementation.