Public transportation and green space were on the minds of residents and commuters Thursday night as they met with officials from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.
Thursday's meeting at the Mattapan branch of the Boston Public Library was part of an ongoing series of community forums being held across the Commonwealth by the DOT. The department is working to gather feedback and satisfy legislation passed in August that requires it to hold public meetings before developing a long-term financing plan for the Commonwealth’s transportation system.
Close to 50 residents filled the library’s community room, eager to let DOT officials know what exactly the communities of Dorchester and Mattapan see as transportation priorities.
Everything from buses to the condition of Blue Hill Avenue was discussed with many concentrating on green space and the Fairmount/Indigo Line, a commuter rail line that stretches from Hyde Park to South Station running through Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan, and Hyde Park.
“We are delighted to have a commuter rail stop in our neighborhood,” said Marilyn Forman, a member of the Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation. “However, on the Fairmount Line we still need to push for fair fares. We need to have a consistent fare across the line.”
Fares on the 9.2-mile line, currently the subject of a major Boston Redevelopment Authority planning initiative, range from $2.00 to $6.00.
The line, which exclusively services Boston, only runs during the week and stops service at 11 p.m., according to MBTA schedules. Many in attendance said the hours strand residents in the community who work weekends and off hours.
“It needs to be available to us at night and also on the weekends,” Forman said. “We need that to happen in order for our neighborhood to stabilize. It would help us tremendously.”
“We can’t overstate the importance of the Ride, the MBTA, and the RTA to our economy,” said John Walkey, a field coordinator for Transportation for Massachusetts. “We really need to make sure our legislatures are hearing folks.”
Many throughout the night highlighted the line, praising the city and the MBTA for its investment in new stations and lauding the MBTA for the lack of amenities at some stops.
“We need security cameras [at the Morton Street Station], because the area isn’t safe,” said Barbara Crichlow, an area resident and member of the West Selden Street and Vicinity Neighborhood Association. “We asked for them in 2005 and we still don’t have them.”
Some also called on the MBTA to continue its push for a new Fairmount Station in Mattapan, which is still in the “design” phase, said DOT staff.
“Having a train station really brings economic development,” said Jeanne DuBois, executive director of the Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation. “Please get a station here in Mattapan. Having more stations will really boost all of our neighborhoods.”
The Neponset River Greenway was also a hot topic Thursday night, with many stressing the importance of the completion of the trail that runs from Dorchester to Hyde Park, cutting through Mattapan and Milton.
“One of the issues we’ve been very involved with is the completion of the Neponset Greenway,” said Vivian Morris, director of the Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition. “We feel that should be a priority.”
The Department of Conservation and Recreation trail, which connects to the Harbor walk, is missing sections in Mattapan and Dorchester.
The DCR and MBTA along with community partners have worked in the past to get federal funding to complete the trail, but their proposals have been passed up.
“We don’t think the state’s responsibility ends there,” said Morris. “If we’re promoting active lifestyles by having a wonderful greenway, why don’t we have that part completed?”
Thursday’s meeting was attended by a number of DOT staff from all the department's divisions, including Secretary of Transportation Richard Davey.
“Before we craft a financing plan we need to know what we’re financing,” Davey told residents Thursday. “This isn’t about us liking trains, cars, or buses; it’s about economic development and empowering communities. We need your help to move this forward.”
The meeting in Mattapan was the DOT’s 13th and a number are still scheduled throughout the Commonwealth, including one Nov. 29 in downtown Boston.
For more information about the hearings, provided by the DOT, click here.