AFTER YEARS of work, three gleaming train stations have opened in some of the city’s roughest areas, part of a $200 million campaign to spruce up the ailing commuter rail line that winds through Dorchester. The new stations on the Fairmount Line, and a fourth still under construction, could spur economic growth in needy neighborhoods, especially coupled with an 18- to 24-month MBTA pilot program to lower fares and increase frequency on the line. But the T’s influence extends only so far. With the transit agency’s huge investments, the corridor’s long-term future now needs strong leadership by the city to bring new development to the corridor.
Right now, the Fairmount Line carries a paltry 1,200 daily riders, making it the least popular commuter rail route in the MBTA system. Running entirely within Boston, the route starts in Readville and skirts the Neponset River before bisecting Dorchester and terminating at South Station. Often, many cars on the train are empty and darkened. The company that operates the commuter rail has proposed running shorter, self-propelled cars on the route, which could allow greater frequency. But any further capital investment by the cash-strapped T has to wait for visible commitment from the city.