Lawyers want investigation into Fairmount Line service

Stanley Innocent waited for a train at the Morton Street stop.
Stanley Innocent waited for a train at the Morton Street stop.

A coalition of civil rights lawyers is calling for an investigation into the MBTA’s frequent cancellations of trains on Boston’s Fairmount Line, saying they disproportionately affect minority and low-income residents.

In a letter sent to the US attorney’s office Tuesday, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice requested a review of the recent cancellations on the line, which runs through Mattapan, Roxbury, and Dorchester on its way to South Station.

The Globe reported in October that 17 trains on the line had been cancelled that month, often to serve suburban lines with higher ridership.

“Because the Fairmount Line runs through Roxbury and Dorchester and other Boston neighborhoods that are home to many minority and low-income residents, the impacts of these cancellations is experienced disproportionately by minority and low-income riders,” the Boston group wrote. “This explicit diversion of resources away from minority and low-income communities for the benefit of more affluent and less diverse riders, is highly troubling.”

The cancellations follow other MBTA actions that affect low-income communities, including the cancellation of late-night bus service, the lawyers wrote. As a result, the lawyers said they hope the US attorney’s office investigates the MBTA’s compliance with transportation equity laws.

“Transportation equity has long been a critical component of the civil rights struggle — from Rosa Parks to modern-day low-income families who depend on public transportation for work and to conduct their daily lives,” the letter said.


According to an MBTA spokesman, the Fairmount Line is one of the most reliable in the system.

“Over the last month, on-time performance on the Fairmount Line has been above 96 percent,” T spokesman Joe Pesaturo said.

“Ensuring reliable and equitable service is a priority,” he added. “The MBTA will continue to focus on improving the system’s performance and consider service enhancements to improve equitable access for all our customers.”

Pesaturo also pointed out that a Federal Transit Administration investigation in August into the cancellation of late-night weekend service did not find the MBTA in violation of the Civil Rights Act.

Last month, US Representative Michael Capuano asked the Department of Justice and the Federal Transit Administration to review whether Keolis Commuter Services violated federal civil rights laws by redirecting trains meant for the Fairmount Line to other lines.

Olivia Quintana can be reached at