Improving Inner-City Mobility with Commuter Rail Service: Case Study of Fairmount Line in Boston, Massachusetts

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

land use - planning, mode - rail


Strategies, Strategic planning, Recommendations, Railroad commuter service, Priorities, Objectives, Mobility, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, Inner city transportation, Goals, Commuter rail, Case studies, Boston (Massachusetts), Attractiveness


Public transportation is critical for mobility in most large cities in the United States. In Boston and eastern Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) offers subway, bus, ferry, and commuter rail service to provide options to personal automobile use and thereby reduce highway congestion, improve air quality, and reduce energy consumption. In recent years, scholarly research has suggested that railroads in the city represent an overlooked rail transit opportunity for inner-city mobility. The MBTA’s Fairmount Commuter Rail Line passes through some of the most densely populated neighborhoods in the region, yet residents seldom use the line for travel. Instead, Fairmount corridor residents tend to use private automobiles and the overcrowded bus and rapid transit network to travel to downtown Boston. This report documents the methods, findings, and recommendations of a 14-month planning study to investigate strategies that would increase the attractiveness and utility of MBTA services on this underutilized line. The paper then suggests where and how the findings of the Fairmount project might be applied for other inner-city corridors.