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Fairmount Line frequency: Would boosting it boost ridership?

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Commuter rail’s least-ridden line

Boston Globe/Getty Images

The commuter rail’s Fairmount Line from South Station to Franklin is the least used of the system’s routes—MBTA data presented last year showed an average weekday ridership of 1,038 (a Boston Foundation report found a weekday ridership of 2,257 for June 2016).

Still, what if the agency upped the frequency of the Fairmount Line trains and allowed passengers to pay for rides with Charlie Cards?

That is what state Rep. Evandro Carvalho of Dorchester is proposing. He wants the MBTA to pilot a program that would basically treat the Fairmount commuter-rail line like a T train for a while.

Right now, the line runs about one train an hour during peak periods. Carvalho’s pilot would have Fairmount trains trundling every 15 minutes during peak times and every half-hour during off-peaks.

Might such a schedule boost ridership? It might.

State House News’ Andy Metzger points to a recent trial that U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano underwrote with campaign funds:

... Capuano used campaign funds to pay for two weeks of free travel for users of the Fairmount Line, and the T later found that by the second week ridership had increased 44 percent compared to the week before the program.

Carvalho’s proposal is probably a long shot, though. It would need a legal change at the state level, and the Baker administration has prioritized fixing/upgrading existing transit rather than tinkering with expansions.

Stay tuned.