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Fairmount Indigo Planning Initiative looks for economic jolt along rail line

Posted by Patrick Rosso  September 13, 2012 06:30 PM

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(Image courtesy The Cecil Group)

An advisory group is looking at ways that a 9.2-mile rail line stretches from South Station to Hyde Park can spur construction and, job creation, and economic development in communities along the line.

The effort is part of the Fairmount Indigo Planning Initiative, which is administered by the the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

The advisory group, which brings together businesses, organizations, and residents, met Wednesday night in Uphams Corner and discussed how to unite behind a shared vision for the corridor that runs through Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan, and Hyde Park.

Joe Cosgrove, director of development for the MBTA, told residents that three stations along the line will soon be open; Talbot Avenue in October; Four Corners in April; and Newmarket in June. The fourth station, Blue Hill Avenue in Mattapan is still in the design phase.

The 120,000 people who live along the line will have new transit options, but the ridership numbers are currently low, according to the Cecil Group, a consultant working with the BRA.

In 2008, daily ridership on the Fairmount/Indigo Line was close to 1,000 passengers per day, one-way. In 2011, that numbered dropped to just 300-400 passengers per day, one-way.

Some at the meeting blamed the cost of a ride, which on average is close to $6. Others blamed poor marketing by the MBTA.

Frequency of the line is also a factor in ridership, with the line making a trip about once a hour mid-day.

Transit in the corridor in general also differs from the rest of Boston.

Only 3 percent of residents along the corridor walk as a means of transit, compared to 14.9 percent of people in Boston. Fifty-nine percent of residents rely on cars and 35 percent rely on public transportation to get around.

Economic development was also highlighted at the meeting, with many numbers pointing to a lack of employment in the corridor. The Cecil Group put the unemployment rate along the corridor at around 15.6 percent, higher than Boston’s overall average of 9.3 percent.

Income levels along the corridor also differ by north and south.

Close to half of residents along the corridor make less than $40,000 in annual household income, with the largest share of residents living in poverty northwest of Columbia Road.

Residents making $50,000 or more annually are generally concentrated around the Readville and Fairmount Stations in Hyde Park and the River Street Station in Mattapan.

The corridor does, however, boast an impressive number of Main Street groups, city and community run organizations that work to revitalize neighborhood commercial districts. There are six such groups along the line, with the majority concentrated in Dorchester and Roxbury.

The corridor is also anchored by two job/industry centers in Newmarket and Readville. Overall 1,300 of the 21,000 parcels along the line are commercial or industry land use.

The majority of land along the corridor, 57 percent, is used for residential, with 12-pecent commercial, 2 percent for industry, and 28 percent tax exempt.

Although compared to other areas in the city, housing in the corridor is not overly dense with 96-percent of the corridor boasting less than 24-units per acre, most urban transit-oriented developments average about 40-units per acre, according to the Cecil Group.

The highest concentration of residents live between Morton Street and Uphmas Corner, with the south portion of the line made up of less dense single family homes.

Green space along the corridor will be a challenge for the group, with the just 7 percent of land around stations dedicated to park/open space.

One local group is working to "green" the line. To read more click here.

While the corridor advisory group will be meeting regularly in a public setting, the group is also working to develop a number of public forums to hold throughout the corridor to gather public feedback and determine what areas residents view as critical to their neighborhood’s success.

A date has not yet been set for public forums, but a website has been created to provide members and interested residents with information and documents on the plan.
Email Patrick D. Rosso, Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.


(Image courtesy The Cecil Group)

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