It's 7:30 a.m. on a Tuesday morning and the sky is just turning light across Blue Hill Avenue in Mattapan.
Angela Mostreda has yet to get her morning coffee, but another part of her routine has started. She's boarding a trolley and starting her commute to work.
"I take the trolley to Ashmont, Ashmont to Andrew to the number 10,"she said.
Angela lives in Mattapan and works in South Boston. By car it's a 20 minute commute. By public transit it's an hour and 5 minutes each way.
“The waiting for the bus takes the longest," she said of her commute. "The train and trolley’s not bad.”
Sitting behind us is Thalia Emparo, of Mattapan, said she takes the T to high school. She said she has to take the bus, then the trolley, then the train to work.
When I told her that sounds like a lot of connections, she shrugged and said she’s used to it, then goes back to her music.
Mostreda and Emparo represent a few of the 180,000 residents who live in Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan who rely on public transportation for jobs, school, medical appointments, shopping, and government services, don’t have convenient access to rapid transit, according to a recent study.
The state has pumped $200 million into a massive renovation of the MBTA's Fairmount commuter rail line, which runs through Hyde Park, Dorchester, Mattapan, and Roxbury to South Station.
Boston Mayoral candidate Marty Walsh has praised the Fairmount line. Walsh said the Fairmount line presents an opportunity – to get people where they need to go, and also to boost business, jobs and development around the station stops.
"Certainly, the Fairmount extension into Dorchester through Hyde Park into Dorchester, has been very helpful and very supportive through the new market area," Walsh said.
Rick Dimino, the president of A Better City, said a lot of attention is being given to the Fairmont line:
“The good news is that there are new stations that have opened there. The good news is that the land use and housing opportunities are getting seriously examined. But you know what? That line is going to operate like a commuter rail line, and that community really deserves something that’s more like a rapid transit line.”
Walsh, for his part, wants to provide more bus service:
"We’ve also got to look at additional service, bus lines, and more frequent bus lines. And the way I would do that as mayor of Boston is to work with MassDOT and the MBTA to get that additional service."
Funding for transportation isn’t directly in the mayor’s control. But Walsh, a State Representative, said he’d call upon his relationships within the state legislature and the Congressional delegation to secure the funding necessary to expand transportation services, especially for people in low income, communities of color.
"For the last 16 years as the legislator I worked with the transportation department in the state and certainly leverage my relationship with the congressional delegation to try to increase funding and work with them to try to convince their colleagues in Washington about the importance of additional funds to Boston," he said.
Boston's transportation problems travel well past public transit. If you drive into the city and try to park, you know how expensive and frustrating it can be.
Under Boston mayor Thomas Menino's rule, Boston has relaxed requirements that parking be built with every new residence. For example, a luxury condominium being proposed next to TD Garden would not include any parking.
Earlier this year, a proposal for a 50 unit building in Allston with no parking generated community opposition. And similar conflicts have broken out in Charlestown, South Boston, and the Back Bay.
Walsh said the city should reduce parking requirements for new developments, but only in some cases.
"I’ve supported projects in my district as an elected official around transit oriented housing with zero parking. It works," he said. "But when you’re looking at other parts of the city, it depends what the public transportation infrastructure is there. And its really going to be on a community by community basis.
In another effort to discourage driving, some economists are proposing a fee for resident parking permits. Walsh said he does not want to charge for residential permits. He said drivers already pay enough as it is, and while it’s a good goal to get people to rely on public transit or bikes, it’s not realistic:
"Some people do have to drive their car to work. Some of the underserved neighborhoods with the MBTA, for example," he said. "If people don’t have a good public transit system they unfortunately have to drive themselves into work. I’d have to take a real good look and study it before I could talk about increasing fees."
Walsh said there are other proposals to consider when thinking about parking and congestion.
"This morning as I was heading in town, a trip that should have taken 15 minutes to the state house took about 45. And a lot of it is on the timing of the lights. And I think we have to look at the timing we use in the city of Boston to time the lights differently in the morning to move traffic more smoothly in the city of Boston," he said.
It the meantime, it wouldn’t hurt to be more like commuter Jay Funley. Funley takes the Mattapan trolley to the Red Line every morning. When he noticed me checking my watch, he motioned for me to look out the window instead. The Neponset marshes lie to the South:
“There’s a short part of the Mattapan trolley where you’re looking out over Marshland. And especially in the morning, the sun is rising over it, and its certainly a beautiful sight. For about 15 seconds there.”
It’s a good lesson, for this Boston commuter.