Fairmount Line riders to get lower fares to go with their increased service

In addition to the 12 extra trains a day set to start July 1, riders at the end of the line will see one-way fares drop from $6 to $2, WBUR reports. July 1 will also see the opening of new stations at Four Corners/Geneva Avenue and Newmarket on the only commuter-rail line that never leaves Boston.

In recent years, the T has poured some $200 million into upgrading the line with new tracks and stations.



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Makes sense but won't happen

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DMUs (diesel multi-car units - i.e. self-propelled coaches) and EMU's (same only electric - not the bird) make perfect sense. However that isn't happening.

There are no funds to electrify the line and the environmental studies alone would take years, not to mention people fighting the idea over fear of the HVAC lines.

EMUs would require purchasing a new fleet, which would only be workable on that small branch and the NEC itself. From a service and support standpoint that makes no sense.

DMUs are required to be rotated out for service on both a coach and locomotive schedule. There is also no place to store them (South Bay is full and the lay overs in place are also full) and no place to service and repair a DMU either.

While it appears insane, having a dedicated fleet made up of locomotives and coaches that can run on any line is better from many standpoints.

Here's one compromise... purchase a couple of GenSet locomotives like the yard switchers. GenSets have 3 small diesel engines within that kick in as more current is needed, and less when not needed. They have a remarkable fuel savings. A couple of short trainsets running with GenSets could do the job at a cost reduction (after purchase). A GenSet won't give you a lot of speed either but could likely run a shorter 4-5 coach consist easily.

GenSets cannot operate on long hauls with a lot of people but for short runs with less to pull or push it may be feasible.

The could store the DMUs

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The could store the DMUs whereever they wouldn't have to store the locos and coaches they'd replace.

And for a low-traffic line like the Fairmount line, they could run a single DMU much of the time. That takes less space than a loco+coach.

Lobby, lobby, lobby

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The reduced fare is likely the result of intense lobby efforts because people in Dorchester actually want a subway line, not commuter trains, and they want to pay only a subway fare.

The line is dedicated to heavy rail, and is one of only two lines into Boston (the other being Framingham) that can handle certain types of freight into the city proper.

FRA dislikes mixing heavy rail (commuter trains) and lighter-rail (like streetcars and subway trains) because of different weight standards and crash standards. Its like putting a brick up against a cardboard shoe box.

So... 'no subways for you!'

Sadly, no matter how this is explained to most of the people, they still don't get it. I've tried and get the 'deer in the headlights look.'

There are actually very stringent rules that have to be followed that the MBTA cannot change.

When I tell people that trains have a movement system like air traffic control people don't believe that either. This isn't your toy Lionel at Christmas.


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Sadly, no matter how this is explained to most of the people, they still don't get it. I've tried and get the 'deer in the headlights look.'

Well, it is actually a semi-stupid reason. It mostly exists because the FRA is stuck in the 1930s when it comes to safety.

First of all, the only reason that commuter trains are so damn heavy (125 ton locomotives, 50-60 ton carriages) is because of the FRA rules requiring them to be weighted down and made completely rigid so that there is NO deformation upon a collision.

Then the FRA claims that they can't possibly allow those heavy monsters to mix with lightweight passenger trains built to modern safety specifications, and definitely not with rapid transit equipment.

So it's a self-inflicted dilemma.

DMUs built to FRA-mandated weights are just too heavy to be reasonable. They have to haul enough diesel fuel to push themselves, and then more fuel to push the fuel weight. I think someone once described it as being like "a moped entering a highway."

Then there's the maintenance schedule lunacy which you mentioned earlier.

In other places, trains are built with modern safety features like crumple zones and impact absorption, and the focus is on avoiding collisions in the first place through advanced signalling and automatic train stop. But you know, they actually care about running efficient and effective transit services in those places, rather than merely patronage machines and last-resort service.

I know that the T is interested in DMUs on Fairmount, and the FRA may be slowly reforming itself. So maybe things will change in the future.


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The MBTA is interested in DMUs for more than just the Fairmont line. I think they think that this is how they extend the Blue Line to Lynn without actually extending the Blue Line to Lynn. Basically this is a low cost way to extend subway-like service (in terms of frequency) out beyond its current reach via the commuter line tracks.

When you think of how much effort went into getting the Green Line extended (giving birth to an elephant, through your nasal passages), then the idea of co-opting existing commuter line for essentially the same purpose as extending subways ("I don't want to have to read a schedule to find out when the train is coming - I just want to walk up and have one show up in under ten minutes or so") looks real appealing.

Whether or not it's the optimal solution, I don't know, but I just don't think anyone at MassDOT wants to think about extending subway lines. And given what was mentioned in a separate thread recently about an abandoned plan for an Orange Line express out to Reading... I wouldn't put it past them to extend the DMU concept to a few different locales after testing it on the Fairmont Line.

Oh I know

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But that doesn't make DMUs any less tangled in FRA red-tape. Doesn't overcome the excessive weight of FRA-compliant DMUs. And doesn't bring to life any successful FRA-compliant DMU manufacturers.

American examples of DMU operation use lightweight European models (e.g. Stadler GTW) on temporally or spatially separate tracks. That won't work for the 3 most obvious candidates for DMUs: Fairmount, Brighton/Newton, and maybe Eastern Route. And did I mention the South Station capacity crunch?

Okay, suppose you route Brighton over the Grand Junction to North Station instead, and wait for South Station expansion to deal with Fairmount. Suddenly, you're paying for crossing improvements in Cambridge and gates going down a bunch of times per hour, and all the NIMBY hell that implies. And SSX is a whole pile of money. And that doesn't address limitations of the Eastern Route which may rule out frequent Lynn DMUs. And the Framingham line needs to be re-signaled to modern standards, not to mention whatever the FRA demands as the price for running proper DMUs.

Suddenly not so "cheap." And we still have to battle out the operating costs: will the union demand an engineer + 2 conductors on each DMU? Will the MBTA GM be willing to stare them down?

In theory, DMUs are a great idea for certain kinds of service patterns. But in America? We have a lot of work to do.

DMUs that meet FRA

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DMUs that meet FRA crash-worthiness standards are being built right now for a new start-up commuter rail line in Northern California:

The contract has options that could be exercised by other operators. The MBTA is not one of the option agencies, but they could pick up someone else's option if another agency declines to buy.

Not so SMART

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(couldn't resist pun)

So, yes, instead of using off-the-shelf equipment from Europe or Japan, SMART paid $2 million to consultants to spec out a brand new untested design. The bid was picked up by a Japanese company for their brand new Illinois factory.

Not the first time this has happened. Look up the Colorado Railcar fiasco.

P.S. SMART is facing 2 years of delay already, 2014 is unlikely to happen. Though it is not clear whether that is due to rolling stock or other causes.

The Japanese company,

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The Japanese company, Nippon-Sharyo/Sumitomo, is a very reputable firm that has built many cars for Chicago's Metra including bi-level EMUs and also built the single-level EMUs for the Chicago South Shore Line. There are not a fly-by-night company like Colorado Railcar. GO Transit of Toronto is also getting DMUs of the same design. If you look at the linked article, you will also notice there are options for over 100 additional cars from multiple other agencies. If these work out, they will become the new standard US DMU. Don't be surprised if 20 of these are picked up by the MBTA.

As I posted in an earlier

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As I posted in an earlier thread, the DCTA in Texas got an FRA waiver for European DMUs without time-of-day separation, when they proved that the signal system and crash-absorbent design provided safety at least as good as an FRA-compliant train.

We wouldn't need South Station expansion if we could turn trains faster. In Japan, they turn intercity trains in 12 minutes.

And over the past few years, the T has eliminated the second employee on Blue, Orange, and Red Line trains. So why can't they reduce staffing on the Commuter Rail?


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Of course unless you have a pass you won't get a transfer to any subway or bus line now that the T has abandoned its efforts to bring the CharlieCard to the commuter rail.

It's not the MBTA

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It's the Union, think about how many jobs would be lost. We cant have union members loosing their jobs in an effort to cut spending, this isn't the private sector.

Why would CharlieCards on the

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Why would CharlieCards on the Commuter Rail mean fewer union jobs?

Proof of payment or turnstiles would reduce on-board staffing. But as long as someone has to go around swiping every CharlieCard, and taking money from anyone who doesn't have one, there would still be the same level of staffing.

100% Right

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San Francisco's commuter rail (Caltrain) uses RFID-cards, and they have staff going around with card readers checking that everyone paid their fare, especially on the weekend when it's a lot of cash fares.

More Trains for Less Money

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And people are complaining.

My line stopped Saturday service and I've never seen Sunday service. Oh wait. I'm complaining. But not about improved service.

Holy shit, logic at the

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Holy shit, logic at the T!?!?

Now they just need weekend service.

I do wonder if the lack of free transfers could eventually result in a civil rights lawsuit, because the area runs through a low income area. Meanwhile lines in high income areas get free transfers (ie, green line, red line). Dont look at me, look at LA where such lawsuits have been successful....multiple times (the transit agency didnt learn the first time).

One solution would be to punch a hole in the ticket, but not collect it, making it usable in a fare gate but not on another train.

Nope. There are also

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Nope. There are also low-income areas that do get free transfers (Jackson Square, Revere, JFK/UMass, anywhere on the bus system), and high-income areas that don't (West Newton, anywhere else on the Commuter Rail).

There's plenty of things wrong with the T and its fare policy. But please don't try to claim it's intentional income-based discrimination.

Plus, you know, the T just spent $200 million to improve service on this line.

Even worse

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Readville is going to cost $6 a ride, whereas every other stop on the line is going to be $2.00, is there any method to this madness?

The reason why nobody takes it is that the service frequency on buses to T stations makes door to door trips faster and does not necessitate a schedule revolving around the commuter rail.

And Hyde Park is the same

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And Hyde Park is the same distance from downtown as Fairmount, at a place where the two lines are less than half a mile apart. Yet it remains in Zone 1.

Hyde Park

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Hyde Park is a low ridership station on the busy NEC. Stopping a train there requires all of the passing traffic to workaround it. I wouldn't be surprised if the T and Amtrak are interested in gently nudging people to use Fairmount instead.

That would be an interesting

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That would be an interesting way to price transit.

Want to get off this bus on a narrow road with a lot of moving traffic? That'll be $5 extra, Charlie.

Hyde Park station has trains

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Hyde Park station has trains going to Back Bay, Fairmount doesn't. Anyone who wants a fast ride to Back Bay will continue to pay a premium to board at Hyde Park.

All Zone 1 Stations are

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All Zone 1 Stations are within the same distance from Boston, and none of the others are getting the same consideration-from what it looks like here.
Oh, and I don't think there have ever been free transfers between Commuter Rail and Subway/bus....

Great news...

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Now let's get the same deal for Roslindale and West Roxbury. We wouldn't want the T to discriminate between city neighborhoods that are about the same distance from South Station, would we?

Right now it costs $103/month EXTRA to ride 4 minutes from Forest Hills to Roslindale Square.

Same here

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About a year ago, bull.......


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C'mon really?? Cleary Square and Logan Square and downtown Hyde Park compared to downtown Rozzie Square and Centre Street in WR. This is a great thing for Hyde Park and Fairmount Hill. There are many stores that could need this type of thing to breathe life into their businesses. We need to do something about downtown HP, and to have folks come into town to shop, have a drink at the Fairmount Grille or Zaz, maybe get their hair or nails done at a wide assortment of places will hopefully do wonders for making this area much friendlier overall..

Am I wrong?

You're sort of wrong

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I don't see this service as bringing many people to Cleary Square. It's an 8 minute walk from Fairmount Station according to Google Maps, almost 1/2 mile, and although I have no problem with that kind of thing, most casual shoppers and diners don't want to walk 1/2 a block. I also don't think lower city fares on the Needham Line would bring many shoppers to Roslindale or West Roxbury.

Commuter rail exists mostly to bring people downtown, and on the Fairmount Line that doesn't include Back Bay or Ruggles. We'll see if the Newmarket station brings business to South Bay. I'm skeptical. For occasional riders the disadvantage of an extra fare is a big discouragement for taking the train instead of a bus to the subway, so its major benefit is for people whose destination is a short walk from South Station. For monthly passholders (on a Charlie Ticket, not a Charlie Card) it could be a very nice improvement if they're transferring to the Red or Silver lines.

I think all stations within Boston should be zone 1A. If that's not fiscally possible, zone 1 shouldn't be more than a 25% increase over zone 1A. It's 247% now which is insane.

8 minute walk?!

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MAYBE if you use a walker! Fairmount station to Cleary Square is literally about a 2-3 minute walk. It's A FEW blocks right down the street. I walked many times from Fairmount station to Cleary Sq and it's at most 5 minutes. It might take 8-10 minutes to walk from HP station to Fairmount but that's because you have to wait to cross HP Ave, and the station is big and recessed back off the street.

About the same distance?

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The Roslindale stops are significantly closer than Fairmount, and the entire portion of the Needham Line within Boston is closer to South Station than Fairmount.

Approximate distances (as the crow flies) from South Station to:

  • Fairmount: ~7.6 miles
  • Roslindale Village: ~5.8 miles
  • West Roxbury (last Boston stop on the Needham line): ~7.3 miles

It's not as-the-crow-flies

It is primarily track miles. But it's probably still the same result.

I still don't get all the complaining, though. The Fairmount Line is supposed to be a long-term project to bring it up to rapid transit quality over years and years, for the betterment of a depressed area. There's other places just as close that are not in Boston. Why should arbitrary municipal borders drawn haphazzardly dictate your fare on a state entity's train?

If you're going to say that the Needham Line should become rapid transit as well, and can make an argument, fine. (I personally would like to see it replaced by Orange Line and Green Line extensions...) But all this bitching because, "Hey, we're technically in Boston's ridiculous borders, and we should all get special treatment!"

Borders, etc.

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I don't think I've gone overboard in focusing on Boston's borders in my comments on commuter rail fares, but maybe your reply to my comment is referring more to the general tone of all of the comments rather than mine specifically. However, it's an easy comparison to make: a station in Hyde Park is getting zone 1A fare while stations in two other nearby neighborhoods that are actually closer to downtown aren't. I'm happy to make the comparison against West Medford, Newton, Malden, Braintree, or any other community that enjoys lower fares than Roslindale and West Roxbury. I'm also willing to grant that more than just distance should come into play when determining fares. My main complaint is the severity of the increase - having a jump from $2.00 to $5.50 for a ride that's a similar distance just seems arbitrary and ridiculous.


"but maybe your reply to my comment is referring more to the general tone of all of the comments rather than mine specifically"

Correct. And not just here, but a few other discussions, including another UHub post, and two other websites. My apologies if it seemed like I was singling out.


I'd like to point out real quick, that from my estimates, if West Roxbury should be 1A, so should Newtonville, Waverly, Belmont, Wedgemere, Winchester, Wyoming Hill, and Cedar Park.

Other neighborhoods

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Yes, Wyoming Hill in particular is interesting because it parallels Roslindale Village pretty well. It's about a mile beyond the end of the Orange Line and about 6 miles from North Station. It's probably not discussed as much because it's not in the same general direction as Fairmount and it's not in Boston, so the direct comparison doesn't come to mind quite so immediately.