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City councilors want the T to explain why some commuter-rail stops in Boston are more equal than others when it comes to fares

City Councilors Tim McCarthy (Hyde Park, Roslindale and Mattapan) and Michelle Wu (at large) hope to hold a hearing at which MBTA officials can explain the differing fares for commuter-rail stations within Boston city limits - in particular at stations south of Forest Hills.

In a request to the entire council for permission to hold a hearing, the two point to differences in fares between Roslindale Village and Forest Hills, even though the two are just a quarter-mile apart, and between Fairmount and Readville stations.

The cheaper fares at some stations are causing issues with parking they say - commuters are flooding the Fairmount-station area, unfairly burdening nearby residents, while the Readville parking lots remain largely empty. They add the Forest Hills parking lots are swamped by people looking to avoid the higher fares at stations such as Roslindale Village.

"The zone fares in southwest Boston are screwy, at best," McCarthy said.

The council considers their hearing request at its regular Wednesday meeting, which starts today at noon in the council's fifth-floor chambers in City Hall.

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Comments

That seems suspect - looks to me to be a bit over a mile.

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After the first mile.

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The city council has zero control over MBCR fares, so this is an entirely meaningless gesture. It's something, though, and up until this point McCarthy has been getting a reputation for doing nothing, especially among his many constituents who rely on the train.

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If this is enough of an issue the city council can petition the legislature and the MBTA to create a special fare zone; or mandate that within a MBTA served city/town CR fares should be designated the same zone. I.E. all stops in Boston would be the same fare, all stops in Newton be the same, all stops in Wellesley be the same, etc.

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Station & Miles

Melrose:
Zone 1
Melrose Highlands 7.5
Melrose/Cedar Pk 6.7
Wyoming Hill 6.2

Wellesley:
Zone 3
Wellesley Farms 12.5
Wellesley Hills 13.5
Wellesley Sq 14.7

Needham
Zone 2
Hersey 10.9
Needham Ctr 12.7
Needham Heights 13.7
Needham Jct 12

Newton
Zone 1
Newtonville 8.1
Zone 2
West Newton 9.1
Auburndale 10.2

Then you get to Boston...
Zone 1A
Back Bay 1.2
Rugggles 2.2
Newmarket 2.3
Uphams Cnr 2.9
Four Cnrs/Geneva 3.9
Talbot Ave 4.8
Forest Hills 5
Morton St 5.7
Fairmount 8.2

Zone 1
Bellevue 7.2
Highland 7.6
West Roxbury 8
Hyde Park 8.4

Zone 2
Readville 9.5
Endicott 10.9

So if you are ib Hyde Park Square, and walk one way (Hyde Park), it will cost you $4.10 round trip. Go the other direction (Fairmont), it will cost you $11.50 round trip.

But if you have to park your car? And drive a mile to Readville? It will cost you $12.50 round trip plus parking. Crazy right?

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Thanks for starting to pull these numbers together. I wanted to, but had to do some actual work. I'd point out, however, that Endicott is in Dedham.

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Forgot to remove it!
Good catch!

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While obviously the city and Council have no direct control over fares, at least calling in the MBTA officials to explain their rationale on the fare differences is worth it, imo. This is another step in pushing this issue with the T as many residents have already been doing. This brings more attention to it so worthwhile as I see it.

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When they dropped the Fairmont fare to $2.50 I was appalled. I wrote directly to the MBTA. The answer I received was that, "Cleary Square was a hub for bus lines therefore they dropped the fare to $2.50. I wrote back to them and said Readville had the 33 and 32 bus route and it was only 3 minutes down the track to Fairmont not Cleary Sq., they responded that "they needed to increase ridership on the Fairmont Line." I tried to get commuters on the Fairmont train at Readville to sign a petition they either looked at me like I was insane. Turned their faces pretending to be asleep or told me their employees are paying for their monthly passes and didn't care about the cost. The MBTA did increase ridership on the Fairmont line. Most of Readville went and picked the train up in Fairmont. Good job MBTA.

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The relevant fare information isn't in the story, so:
IMAGE(http://i.imgur.com/i5BS7Zd.png)
As a Readville resident, it's frustrating to be paying the same fare in the city of Boston that people in Lynn, Reading, or Weymouth pay. (source)

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If not, I don't think I understand the angle - unless you're making the argument that Boston contributes more to the MBTA per capita than those towns, or something along those lines. Is that the source of the frustration?

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Wow, that is ridiculous. And isn't parking at Reading free for Reading residents?

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It's almost free.

I think Reading was being overrun by non-Readingites for parking needs at the Depot so they started the permitting system in the mid-90's.

http://www.readingma.gov/parks-and-forestry-division/pages/parkingcompos...

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The point of a transportation system is to take you to places where you don't live. So limiting it based on residence makes no sense.

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You might be surprised at how the picture looks different.

Also, Readville isn't any closer to South Station than Wegemere or Winchester are to North Station, and those stations are Zone 1.

Lynn? Could actually be closer than Readville.

The point being: just because it is still in the city limits doesn't mean that it isn't as far out as some "suburban" stations in other directions. All the same, it still seems like too much of a jump.

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All the same, it still seems like too much of a jump.

I'd be curious to know why the jump is so steep from 1A to 1.

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Zone 1A pricing has nothing to do with distance from North or South Station. Rather, the original Zone 1A stations provide direct connections into the rapid transit system, they are priced the same as a rapid transit fare for inbound passengers originating from, or outbound passengers exiting at, that station. Don't know about the additional stations added since - probably to please some political hacks.

Also note that the fares for CR passengers coming inbound to a Zone 1A station are the same as if they were to travel all the way into North or South Station (i.e. you can't get a lower "interzone' fare to or from Zone 1A from outlying zones).

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Then explain West Medford, Malden, Chelsea and Fairmount?

http://www.mbta.com/fares_and_passes/rail/#zonechart

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stations, of which Malden - with the Orange Line connection - was one of. Was not aware that other stations without rapid transit connections have since been designated zone 1A. I've revised my posting to reflect this.

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Zone 1A stations provide direct connections into the rapid transit system

That doesn't explain how EVERY STATION on the Fairmount line (or "indigo line" as some want to call it) is Zone 1A except Readville, which has just as many bus connections as Fairmount or Upham's or whatever, but languishes in Zone 2.

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Zone 1A pricing has nothing to do with distance from North or South Station. Rather, as Zone 1A stations provide direct connections into the rapid transit system, they are priced the same as a rapid transit fare for inbound passengers originating from, or outbound passengers exiting at, that station.

That explains the 1A pricing and makes sense. Doesn't explain the significant price jump between 1A to 1 though.

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Then why price Quincy Ctr at Zone 1 and Braintree as Zone 2?

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And as such equates to the subway fare. Those unfortunate souls who dare to want a reusable charlie card with their monthly pass on it aside, a "paper" monthly ticket for the subway is also good on the commuter rail for Zone 1A.

If the two fares were completely decoupled instead of only mostly decoupled, then Zone 1A fares would likely jump to $5.

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a CharlieTicket being good on CR trains for Zone 1A stations. For one thing, how can the conductor verify that there's sufficent value on the ticket and then deduct the cost of the fare? For another thing, I ocassionally see people going to Malden from North Station on Reading/Haverhill trains try to pay with a CharlieTicket, and be told by the conductor "No, that's not valid."

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a MONTHLY CharlieTicket.

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The real question is why are the zone lines drawn where they are? Braintree is Zone 2, which is a great cost saving mechanism for anyone willing to spend time transferring off of the train there as they can avoid the huge fare jump involved in entering the city zone 1A yet pay no more for their subway ride as one who gets on in South Station. Guaranteed seat, too.

In the year 2175 we'll have the same problem in Lynn with riders jumping off at Zone 2 and getting the Blue Line. The question isn't why Zone 2 is $6.25, it's why Zone 1A doesn't end at 128 and everything and everyone inside of it pay Zone 1A (subway) fare.

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I think that the South Side trains get disorted by the extra 1.4 miles from South Station to Back Bay. (Framingham, Worcester, Needham, Franklin, Providence & Stoughton Lines).
Example if you get on at Roslindale and get off at Back Bay, it is only 5 miles. About half the train gets off at Back Bay not South Station.

(Info comes from MBTA.com - Distance, Zone and number of buses per station)

Station Distance Zone Cost Subway #Buses
Back Bay 1.2 1A $2.10 Y 2
Rugggles 2.2 1A $2.10 Y 13
JFK/Umass 2.3 1A $2.10 Y 3
Newmarket 2.3 1A $2.10 N -
Yawkey Station 2.5 1A $2.10 N -
Uphams Cnr 2.9 1A $2.10 N 1
Porter Square 3.4 1A $2.10 Y 5
Four Cnrs/Geneva 3.9 1A $2.10 N -
Malden Ctr 4.5 1A $2.10 Y 14
Chelsea 4.6 1A $2.10 N 5
Talbot Ave 4.8 1A $2.10 N -
Forest Hills 5 1A $2.10 Y 16
Morton St 5.7 1A $2.10 N 2
Wyoming Hill 6.2 1 $5.75 N 4
Belmont 6.4 1 $5.75 N 3
Roslindale Village 6.4 1 $5.75 N 6
Melrose/Cedar Pk 6.7 1 $5.75 N -
Bellevue 7.2 1 $5.75 N 4
Waverley 7.4 1 $5.75 N 2
Melrose Highlands 7.5 1 $5.75 N 1
Highland 7.6 1 $5.75 N 4
Quincy Ctr 7.9 1 $5.75 Y 14
West Roxbury 8 1 $5.75 N 3
Newtonville 8.1 1 $5.75 N 4
Fairmount 8.2 1A $2.10 N 1
Hyde Park 8.4 1 $5.75 N 3
West Newton 9.1 2 $6.25 N 2
Readville 9.5 2 $6.25 N 2
Waltham 9.9 2 $6.25 N 8
Auburndale 10.2 2 $6.25 N 2
Braintree 10.9 2 $6.25 Y 2
Endicott 10.9 2 $6.25 N -
Hersey 10.9 2 $6.25 N -
Lynn 11.5 2 $6.25 N 10
Dedham Corp. Ctr 11.8 2 $6.25 N -
Needham Jct 12 2 $6.25 N 1
Wellesley Farms 12.5 3 $7.00 N -
Needham Ctr 12.7 2 $6.25 N 1
Wellesley Hills 13.5 3 $7.00 N -
Needham Heights 13.7 2 $6.25 N 1
Wellesley Sq 14.7 3 $7.00 N -
Holbrook/Randolph 15 3 $7.00 N 2
Natick 17.7 4 $7.50 N -
Framingham 21.4 5 $8.50 N -
Ashland 25.2 6 $9.25 N -

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Dear Councilor,

I read this morning that Councilors McCarthy and Wu hope to hold a hearing on Commuter Rail prices, including those in Roslindale. This issue is very important to me: I have previously asked my state representatives to look into it. I hope that you will join Councilors McCarthy and Wu in trying to address it in the City Council.

I live near Roslindale Village and commute to work at Boston University. I normally bike, but during inclement weather I ride the Needham Line to Ruggles and transfer to an MBTA bus. The total round-trip cost is $14.70. I believe this is far too expensive.

The fare system is especially unfair for residents of Roslindale, Hyde Park, and West Roxbury. These communities are in Zone 1, where the fare is $5.75. All other Commuter Rail stops within the City of Boston are Zone 1A, with a fare of $2.10. Several other communities outside of Boston are categorized as Zone 1A, including Cambridge, Malden, and Chelsea.

I've never understood why I pay such a higher fare than other residents of Boston, or those in certain suburban communities, just to travel a few miles within the city limits. I also don't understand why there is no free transfer to the bus or subway when riding the Commuter Rail. My fiance and several of my neighbors choose to drive and park on city streets because it is significantly less expensive than the T.

All Commuter Rail stops within the city of Boston should be Zone 1, with a fare of $2.10. In order to decrease traffic, improve air quality, and reduce carbon emissions, public transportation should be incentivized with lower fares (and ideally better service).

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n/t

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i am a senior and I would love to take the Needham line into Boston. Oftentimes, i just need to get to Ruggles, but because of the expense, I drive rather than take public transportation. Other times, if I return to Roslindale around 8:00 I will also drive, as etaking the mbta from Forest Hills and bus, I feel ulnerable waiting at Forest Hills for buses that are irregular and often delayed in the evening. Roslindale is one of the most diverse in the city, among ages, ethnicities, and incomes. Reasonable public transportaion options for the Roslindale area is really quite limited.

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W/r/t to my comment above, some of these concerns are a little different, particularly with respect to extra $$ for the transfer. That's absurd (and I thought that transfers used to be included - am I not remembering the pre-Charlie days correctly?).

I cannot agree with the last paragraph, however, for a couple of reasons having to do with the cost of operating commuter rail vs. subways/trolleys and some of the CR stops in Boston being significantly further away from the downtown core than stops in other municipalities, etc.

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After all the state legislature has much more power over the MBTA.

The answer of course is that the State Legislature does a piss poor job of representing its constituents, Sanchez included.

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Emailed Rep. Sanchez and my forgettable Senator last year. Received generic form letters from both.

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Sanchez has never shown his face in Roslindale despite representing part of it.

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Great letter! I so want the commuter rail to be a viable transit option -- but between the crappy frequency on the needham line and the fact it's SO EXPENSIVE to take from the square, I stick with busses. Which are totally awful in their own right, but at least include free transfers.

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I've wondered about this inequity too. In general, our public transportation serves some communities better than others. . . equalizing the fares would help at least in this instance. As for the rest of Roslindale, if you don't live near the Washington St or Belgrade bus lines the MBTA basically doesn't serve you. Justice for Roslindale transit!

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Not true:

...Roslindale, Hyde Park, and West Roxbury. These communities are in Zone 1, where the fare is $5.75. All other Commuter Rail stops within the City of Boston are Zone 1A, with a fare of $2.10.

Readville Station in Hyde Park is Zone 2, at $6.25.

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I thought Readville was Dedham

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The commuter rail fares are set up so that there is a big jump in price for any trip that crosses the invisible line between zone 1A and zone 1. If you stay entirely within zone 1A, the trip is inexpensive. If you stay entirely outside of zone 1A, the trip is inexpensive. If you cross that invisible line, the trip suddenly gets much more expensive (although if you take a long trip into the city you still pay a low fare per mile traveled). Some examples:

On the Needham Line, adding 1.4 miles to the trip more than doubles the cost per mile.

  • Forest Hills to South Station: $2.10 for a 5 mile ride = 42 cents per mile
  • Roslindale Village to South Station: $5.75 for a 6.4 mile ride = 90 cents per mile

On the Providence Line, crossing into zone 1A instead of stopping at Hyde Park increases your cost by about 83% and your cost per mile by 50%. Hyde Park to South Station costs the same fare as Providence to Hyde Park.

  • Providence to South Station: $10.50 for a 43.6 mile ride = 24 cents per mile
  • Providence to Hyde Park: $5.75 for a 35.2 mile ride = 16 cents per mile
  • Hyde Park to South Station: $5.75 for a 8.4 mile ride = 68 cents per mile

I get that there's no reason to expect cost per mile to be the same for every trip - longer trips are presumably less expensive per mile to operate, and zone 1A is a special case because it is the same area that the subway covers. But if you put it all together, it's frustrating to live in zone 1, where the cost jumps so quickly over such a short distance, and I can see why some people might be tempted to drive either all the way into the city or just the short distance needed to see the huge fare reduction.

One solution would be to just make more stations zone 1A. That doesn't really solve the problem fully, though, it just moves the invisible line farther out and makes another area the unfortunate ones who live just outside of zone 1A. It seems like a more comprehensive solution would be to find a new fare structure that doesn't impose such a sudden cost increase as you move a small distance further from downtown.

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Fairmount is 1A 2.10
Roslindale zone 1 5.75
Which one is father away from Forest Hills? South Station?

Ever since they bumped up the fares and parking at the commuter rail, the Forest Hills lots are much more full. And right now with construction it make sit worse. No Way it should cost $182 a month to take the commuter rail from West Roxbury or Roslindale.

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According to the data on page 75 of this report, Fairmount is 8.2 miles from South Station and Roslindale Village is 6.4. The Fairmount line is a special case, though, and I'm sure there are people here who know more about that than I do.

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After a community group demanded the rates be drop because it served minority neighborhoods.

https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2013/06/24/fairmount-commuter-line-bol...

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Fairmount Line was reduced to subway fare as a trial basis to build up ridership on an underutilized line and to promote use of the new stations. It was only a matter of time before other neighborhoods would want the same fare treatment

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fare treatment

I see what you did there!

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Wouldn't the most fair solution be to decide on a metric for cost and then price every station individually using that formula? I vote for "per mile". And then the pricing structure should probably be reconciled with the tolls on the pike, or if the pike is already considered fair, maybe we just use that formula for the CR.

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I think the simplest thing to do is to dump the 1A zone, or at least reprice it so that it's something like $4. CR is not rapid transit, so there should be no expectation that it should be priced the same (just like how we don't expect buses and RT to have equivalent fare structures for similar distances). Many 1A rides present fare collection problems as well--travel during rush hour and it often winds up being free. Frequent boarding/alighting also increases station dwell time.

Maybe this will also motivate a push to turn Fairmont into RT-like service. That way you can call it Indigo (not CR) and charge $2.10 or something without people griping about inequity.

The whole question of how to price public transit is so fraud with competing interests (increase revenue, increase ridership, decrease traffic congestion, etc) that coming up with a self-consistent fare policy is almost impossible.

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It is wasteful that the large parking area at Roslindale Village commuter rail is nearly empty when the lots aT Forest Hills a mile away are full at 7:30 AM. Why? Cost $182 a month an $4 a day to park at the Commuter Rail. $75 a month and $6 a day at the Hills. Simple economics

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That the parking lot is not a full-on Orange Line station.

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+10000 !!!!!

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West Roxbury managed to kill the Orange Line extension past Forest Hills, but within 25 years, we'll see the Orange Line to 128 along the Needham Line. With the level of traffic on the three tracks from Forest Hills to Back Bay between MBTA to Providence/Stoughton/Franklin, South Coast trains to Fall River/New Bedford (no matter whether anybody actually wants them or not), and Amtrak's plans for trains to New York, there's not going to be slots available for the Needham line.

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Except with better trains? It makes a lot of sense - they're both about the same distance from downtown Boston. Red extends to Braintree, Green to Riverside, why not Orange to Needham?

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Doesn't the MBTA have an advisory board that can address this sort of thing?

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... that fares should correlate in any way with distance traveled?

There was a while when airfare Boston to San Francisco was about double airfare from Boston to Los Angeles, even though both are about the same distance.

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You can look at public transportation pricing in a million ways. To me the basic assumptions of system pricing should be based on the concept that the MBTA exists to help the public move around the region and that the costs of doing business in any part of metro Boston is the same (meaning specifically there are no tax/tariffs/fees involving in say, using a train in Newton vs. Chelsea vs. Boston). Based on that, outside of specific issues (providing service to historically neglected communities (Orange line vs. silver line, Fairmont) then it should exactly be based on distance from the center of the system.

One alternative, I guess, would be to do by town income or taxes so someone in Needham pays more than someone from Hyde Park? That's absurd.

Another alternative would be to do congestion pricing where it costs more to get on a more popular stops, but that also seems absurd in that the function of the MBTA is to move people where they need to go and relieve pressure on the roads.

How do you think it should be determined? By Bob Deleo?

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the number of people that use the stop, and proportional to the marginal cost of servicing it. Of course you can factor subsidies to disadvantaged communities into that cost.

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I would hope the city Council would hold a hearing on public safety on the Fairmont Line after Channel 7 did an expose on the lax security at Uphans Corner Station. The reporter called the station a heroin hotspot where hundreds of discarded needles are left in the station after junkies shoot up.

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What especially bothers me is that with every fare increase the difference becomes more pronounced. They keep the corporate inertia of "we've always done it that way" rather than smoothing things out.

What they should do is have zone 1A be $2, have zone 10 be $12 (or whatever it is) and then have every single zone be an equal difference in price.

When the fare goes up, you have 1A be $2.50 (or whatever), zone 10 be 13, or whatever, and again make sure the incremental fare is fully even

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I haven bitching about is for years! Maybe someone finally heard be:)

People should not have to pay $5.75 to go 2 stops after FH while the end of liners only pay .75 more. City of Boston stops should be covered by your regular Combo pass or only charge $1 extra for those stops in Boston. It's highway robbery.

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Newton gets subway service in Riverside which is further out than Readville.

What Hyde Park / Readville, Roslindale, West Roxbury needs is subway extension - anything else is stop gap.

First of all the Fairmount line needs to be the indigo line, fully electrified and run with free transfer all the way from Readville. If users want a quicker trip they can pay more for CR service from Readville.

We need an orange line extension forking at Forest Hills and continuing to Rozzie / West Rox on one Side and Hyde Park Station on the other. On the HP side there should one or two intermediate stops along Hyde Park Avenue. At Cummins Hwy for instance.

The lack of investment in usable public transit in one of the most densely populated areas of the state is an embarrassment for the state and the city.

If the city of Boston is serious about building affordable housing along transit lines they need to get serious about improving transit lines in the areas of the city that can support the habitation of more people.

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The lack of investment in usable public transit in one of the most densely populated areas of the state is an embarrassment for the state and the city

Mayor Curtatone, is that you?
Representative Capuano?

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A bifurcated orange line to W. Roxbury and Hyde Park was actually the original plan. It was scrapped for budget reasons when the line was relocated in the 80's.

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haven't met anyone yet who feels unfairly burdened...easy way to solve with a res sticker on certain streets. Mostly I think people have welcomed the larger ridership since it will confirm that the line is needed! Good to see more people on the train. and, I have been at the HP station when the trains don't stop ("we're full!") which ain't welcome news esp in bad weather, so it relieves the Hyde park train, terrific. Finally, McCarthy seems to have found an issue (any issue) to champion...we'll see about attention span or if this is just an election year anomaly.

Readville does seem unfairly fared.

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When I first moved to Boston, the cost of a Zone 1 commuter rail pass was about 30% more than a Combo pass for the bus and subway. I often took the commuter rail which was a little bit faster from Roslindale Square and more comfortable. Now the Zone 1 pass is about 250% more than a Link pass for bus and subway. Gee, would you pay $75 or would you pay $182? That's insane! I haven't taken the commuter rail in over a decade. At that price, who would?

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The regular Public Meetings of the full Boston City Council could be held from time to time around the different Neighborhoods. There are other civic concerns as well that could be brought forward better.

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The lack of investment in usable public transit in one of the most densely populated areas of the state is an embarrassment for the state and the city.

If the city of Boston is serious about building affordable housing along transit lines they need to get serious about improving transit lines in the areas of the city that can support the habitation of more people.

@Windypig, here you have highlighted (perhaps inadvertently) a major structural impediment to progress in mass transit. Transit issues that concern Boston (the city) largely involve a regional transit authority (the T).

Making progress in mass transit issues would require collaboration among the city and the T (which also means the state). Such collaboration is tough, to say the least.

Regional matters, I think, are even more difficult to pull off than statewide matters. In this part of the world, we just don't do "regional." Part of the area's charm, I suppose, but that charm has a whopper of a price tag attached.

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Anyone have any idea how far the orange line subway tunnel at Forest Hills going toward Roslindale actually goes? Where does it go? I have this hopeful fantasy that there is an old, unused, covered-up tunnel all the way from Forest Hills to the old MBTA substation building in the Square that could be fixed up and used again. Sigh.

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I didn't realize you had a Rozzie resident's card, but read the part on the back about not letting outsiders know!

Anyway, the Orange Line tracks continue, oh, for maybe three trains' length past Forest Hills, alongside the Needham Line (if you want to see the rickety wooden platforms at the end, cross into the Arboretum across from the station and then follow the fence; there might be some impenetrable brush along the way, but there's at least one place to get up close to the tracks; I think you can also see the end of the line from the Harvest Coop parking lot).

If the Orange Line ever is extended, they'd probably just convert the Needham Line to third-rail operations (well, they'd also have to lay a second track on large portions of the route, but the right of way is big enough for that - and even has bridges designed for it, at least through West Roxbury).

The substation powered street cars that ran in, well, the street (hopefully, when it gets renovated, they'll keep some of the basement open for public viewing, especially the wall where all the old - and still labeled - power cables came in).

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Before the Election Tues 3 Nov 2015 check out the Roll Call Votes of Boston City Councilors at
http://www.cityofboston.gov/cityclerk/rollcall/Default.aspx

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