Advocates for improving the MBTA’s Fairmount commuter rail line are raising concerns that a proposed suburban service to Foxborough could disrupt travel for low-income and minority passengers in Mattapan, Hyde Park, and Dorchester.
A group called the Fairmount Indigo Transit Coalition sent a letter to the Baker administration requesting the T study alternatives before launching the extended service to Foxborough. The Fairmount Line serves a higher share of minority riders than other commuter rail lines and was plagued by a rash of train cancellations in 2016 that prompted a federal investigation.
The MBTA has not provided an extensive explanation of the new service. But the advocates said T officials have told them the proposed Foxborough pilot would use the same tracks and trains as the Fairmount Line to send several daily trips to and from Gillette Stadium. The advocates’ concern is the extended service would increase the likelihood of delays and disruption on the urban portion of the run.
“If a train should be delayed during this loop, or break down, the service on the Fairmount Line, which has already been unreliable, would be affected before it has even picked up a single passenger in the corridor,” Pamela Miles, chairwoman of the Fairmount coalition, wrote in a letter to Governor Charlie Baker Thursday.
In an interview, Miles said she learned details of the Foxborough service in a recent meeting with state officials.
MBTA officials are expected to provide a briefing Monday to the agency’s Fiscal and Management Control Board, which must approve the new Foxborough service. A spokesman, Joe Pesaturo, would say only the T “continues to welcome all comments and feedback from communities and stakeholders, and looks forward to more public discussion next week.”
A Baker spokesman, William Pitman, said the administration “continues to support investments across the system and Fairmount Line Corridor, including the new Blue Hill Avenue Station in Mattapan,” for which ground was broken in June.
Miles said she wants the T to scrap the idea and come up with alternatives for Foxborough, such as using shuttle buses at Gillette Stadium to bring passengers to other regional train stations.
The Fairmount Line is the only commuter rail service to start and end in Boston, but it shares tracks with the longer Franklin Line. Trains headed for Foxborough must travel down the Franklin Line before peeling off on a spur to Gillette Stadium.
Miles said the complex setup increases the possibility of delays that would affect the Fairmount Line, where service levels and transit equity issues have already been raised in the last year.
The Federal Transit Administration ultimately decided those cancellations were not a civil rights violation, but still expressed concern about service levels. Since then, Keolis Commuter Services, which operates the commuter rail for the T, has reported improved performance on the line.
Advocates such as Miles have long argued the Fairmount Line should have a higher level of service, similar to the subway system’s.
In a presentation earlier this year, the MBTA projected the Foxborough service would add about 220 daily weekday riders. The Fairmount Line has about 2,260 daily riders, and the T has said it has capacity for additional passengers from Foxborough.
But Miles noted there are 500 parking spots at Gillette Stadium, and worried the trains would be full of suburban passengers by the time it pulls into the Boston stations.
“This could potentially result in the terrible situation in which all riders from Foxborough, likely white, will be sitting, [while] riders of the Fairmount Line, more likely people of color, will be standing on the way to South Station,” she wrote.
If approved, the Foxborough service would begin in 2018 and cost $950,000 annually for the pilot program. Kraft Group, which owns the Patriots and Gillette Stadium, has pledged to provide up to $200,000 a year to help underwrite the service. A spokesman for the Kraft family did not respond to a request for comment, nor did Foxborough town officials.Adam Vaccaro can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamtvaccaro.