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Fairmount Line as case study in community development

The Stanford Social Innovation Review reports some findings from the four years of time University of Michigan sociology professor Jeremy Levine spent in Dorchester, Mattapan and Hyde Park looking at the non-train ramifications of the Fairmount Line re-do:

The Fairmount Corridor project revealed a central tension in community development: [Community-based organizations] both enhance and undermine democracy, Levine says. Neighborhood nonprofits can provide more political voice for the urban poor, but they don’t necessarily represent the interests of all residents and can introduce "new, unintended mechanisms of inequality."

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Too busy to read it today, but will be interested in seeing what they're talking about.

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But in short the community development organizations came up with plans for a revitalization of the corridor in secret, then told the community what was going to happen. Suffice to say, the community was not happy.

My summary might be a bit off, but I'd love to read his full work on the subject. In this area, there is a lot of work done by people who think they can make the community better, but they oftentimes neglect to work with the community on their projects. The failure of the Route 23 bus upgrade is a classic example of this.

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There was a Route 23 upgrade?*

* said in the same tone of voice as "Beto ended his campaign? I didn't know Beto had still been running!"

I'm wondering if they'll go into the example of the Blue Hill Avenue BRT/28/whatever fail.

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Route 23 and 28 were going to get a Silver Line style upgrade until community extortionists... erm activists killed it for not greasing their palms and stroking their egos.

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State officials sprung the whole idea at a shindig at the Dudley T stop one day without bothering to tell anybody and people, still smarting over the "rapid transit" they'd been promised when the el came down, got pissed.

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Yes, that, but/and...

a good chunk of the blowback was people along Blue Hill Avenue (especially between Mattapan and Grove Hall). There was certainly some relation to el/Silver frustration, but people I knew in that area seemed more bothered by the notion of making (dividing) Blue Hill Ave into a "corridor" for anything from outside

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The ITDP with Jim Aloisi, the transportation secretary at the time, was a communication failure of epic master-class proportions. Aloisi was gone after just a few months on the job due to the 28X debacle. And yes, this is the same Jim Aloisi that goes on every news station these days claiming to be a "transportation expert".

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My 8s always end up looking like 3s.

No wonder I couldn’t find a link for the proposal.

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The Fairmount groups do have a lot of better resident engagement to do. But it must be clarified that these orgs had nothing to do with the MBTA projects. The only line that residents fought for and won was the Fairmount Line, which is being lost now to Foxboro.

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For example. The Conservation Law Foundation shoved four new Fairmount stations down Boston's throat. The community at large called out the flaws with the plan. 1. Having large locomotives stop every few blocks will make Fairmount service even worse. 2. If you can't transfer for free from a bus to the Fairmount, nobody will use the service beyond a few existing riders. The CLF brushed off these criticisms and began to push their Fairmount stations through local CBOs, who then started to change neighborhood sentiment along the corridor. Ultimately, all four CLF Fairmount stations were built, and all four CLF stations have become absolute disasters. The Fairmount trains now crawl from South Station to Mattapan, adding up to 20 mins per ride. You still can't transfer for free to the Fairmount, so bus riders stay on until they reach the Red or Orange Line. Today, there are more homeless camps / drug users than passengers at each new CLF Fairmount station.

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You are saying the communities on the line didn’t want the service at all?

I didn’t see that anywhere in the article.

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That’s ridiculous.

Residents along the Fairmount Line had been pushing for new stations, from an equity perspective, for DECADES before CLF got involved. (How would you like diesel trains running along your house and never stopping?)

The cost factor is why activists pushed for rapid transit fees and WON. They continue to push for more regular service and, ultimately, electrifying the line.

Ridership along the Fairmount Line had the highest % increase in 2018. Most of the stations are VERY new, ridership increases every year and it takes time for people to change their habits.

Do you think 20 minutes from Mattapan to South Station versus the hour+ it takes on multiple buses or the trolley/redline is bad? Are you out of your mind?!?

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The article is thin on details. The paragraph quoted above is the most substantial of the short summary.

But it makes a few noteworthy claims. For all the talk about forming ties with community leaders and organizations, these groups may steamroll locals if they disagree with the opinions of the groups leadership. But, they things accomplished. If that's a good thing depends on if you agree with the group.

Will be interesting to read the book to be published based on the research.

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This is an indictment of local non-profits, and the Fairmont line is just the framework to discuss those problems. Delaying the project for 2 years so that they get their pound of flesh wasn't in the best interest of the people they claim to champion.

I have to confess that I lost track of all the thems and those in your post. Which group was what. The blame is mine as I need coffee.

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Ten years ago, I attended the international transit conference Rail-Volution when it was in Boston. In one workshop, session and meal after another, as soon as anyone from around the country or world learned I ws from Boston, they grilled me on the Indigo/Fairmount success. We were and are internationally known for it.

The dogged and savvy work of the public groups in beating inertia, getting the funding lined up and simply making it happen is a template for other transit systems.

I had been ignorant and just thought how long it took for the obvious (like putting stops were poor people live instead of shooting past them). We're not the only town with stupid transit, but we are known (elsewhere) for fixing it in this case.

Now that I live on Faiirmount Hill and take the line, I have developed a real appreciation for what the local groups did in forcing the city, state, and transit authority to get their acts together. The rest of the world already knew.

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Daily ridership tripled from 789 to 2257. All it took was $200 million, an artificially low fare structure, and the perpetual operating expenses to run it more frequently off-peak than the other commuter rail lines, some of which serve 10 times as many people each.

After all this, it remains a line from quiet out-of-the-way neighborhoods to South Station. Then you have to transfer, and pay again if you don't have a pass. The actual residential clusters and commercial centers of Dorchester and Mattapan are still just as hard to reach.

Some success.

Imagine what $200 million could have done for the 14057 daily riders of the 28 bus.

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The problem is the train line doesn’t go to Ruggles or Back Bay. So unless working in Financial District the line is useless for any students/workers in Back Bay/Northeastern area.

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to a commuter rail train that serves Back Bay or Ruggles. Those are Zone 1A stops, so if you have a monthly pass it is a free transfer.

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How long would that take? Even if there's a connecting train within 10 minutes (which is not likely), would this save any time versus taking the bus to Ruggles in the first place?

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