Pros And Cons of Bourne Commuter Rail Discussed At Forum

State Representative David Vieira fields a question during a forum on a proposal to bring commuter rail service to Buzzards Bay. On the easel behind him are notes Mr. Vieira took during the meeting. Mr. Vieira told the audience that he will bring their comments and suggestions to the attention of state legislative leaders on Beacon Hill.Michael Rausch - State Representative David Vieira fields a question during a forum on a proposal to bring commuter rail service to Buzzards Bay. On the easel behind him are notes Mr. Vieira took during the meeting. Mr. Vieira told the audience that he will bring their comments and suggestions to the attention of state legislative leaders on Beacon Hill.

 As state transportation officials explore the possibility of extending commuter rail service from Middleborough into Bourne, people in town have greeted the idea with a mixture of enthusiasm and skepticism.

“Love it,” Laurie J. Kelly, owner of Antique Affair on Main Street, said when asked what she thought of the proposal.

“I do see an increase in my business, personally, when the people get off the train,” Ms. Kelly said, referring to passengers aboard this summer’s CapeFLYER train from Boston as well as the Cape Cod Central Railroad, which runs between Buzzards Bay and Hyannis.

Ms. Kelly’s daughter, Melissa-Anne C. Kelly, agreed that commuter rail could help sales by bringing more people to the area.

“I think ultimately it would be good for business. We’d sell more. Maybe it would help the traffic. I just think it would make Cape Cod more popular,” the younger Ms. Kelly said.

“It would be awesome for everybody,”  said Jake G. Gray, owner of Jake’s Pizza on Main Street.

Mr. Gray said the town needs to do something to counter the loss of the annual Scallop Fest, which has been moved from Bourne to the Cape Cod Fairgrounds in East Falmouth.

“All they [the town] have is a nice parking lot with a great water view; might as well share that with other people,” he said.

Fotini N. Tsonis, owner of Nick’s Pizza House, agreed that commuter rail service would be “awesome for business.” Ms. Tsonis, who has operated her business in the same spot on Main Street since 1977, said the other positive aspect to train service into Buzzards Bay is that it could help promote the Cape Cod Canal.

“So if they advertise it right and they promote the canal right, I think there would be no problems,” she said.

Concerns that bringing commuter train service to Bourne, which would require increased parking, could result in a park-and-ride station with no benefit through increased business were expressed during a public forum on commuter rail held last week at the Bourne Veterans Memorial Community Center.

Organized by state Representative David T. Vieira (R-Falmouth), whose district includes Bourne, the session featured state and local officials, along with residents of both Bourne and Wareham, sharing their views, mostly optimistic, on commuter rail service. Cape Cod Canal Region Chamber of Commerce president Marie J. Oliva said that train service to Buzzards Bay “will strengthen the area” economically. Town administrator Thomas M. Guerino said that commuter rail could add to the revitalization of not just Buzzards Bay, but the entire area.

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“It could be the impetus to move economic development forward,” Mr. Guerino said.

Town engineering technician Dody Adkins-Perry, a former resident of Middleborough, agreed that train service in her former hometown was a good thing, but it came with “some serious consequences.” Ms. Adkins-Perry specifically mentioned that commuters would park at the station, board their train, return and drive home without patronizing local businesses.

“You’re lucky if they buy a cup of coffee,” she said, noting that rail service does not necessarily bring with it economic vitality.

Mr. Gray said that, contrary to Ms. Adkins-Perry’s concern, his pizza place is busiest when people are waiting for the train. He said that the same was true for his neighbor, the ice cream store, Canal Creamery.
“We saw business because of the train,” he said.

At Antique Affair, the younger Ms. Kelly conceded that train service might not bring about the hoped-for business boon. She pointed out that expectations were high for the Polar Express Christmas train to bring in added business during the holiday season. That, she said, did not happen.

“Even if we have leaflets and we say, ‘Come and have some hot chocolate and cider,’ it really didn’t help at all,” she said.

The elder Ms. Kelly, however, said that while she understands the argument that Buzzards Bay could become another Middleborough, she points out that the two towns are very different.

“They don’t have the canal, they don’t have the bridges; and I mean, we are the gateway to the Cape right here,” she said.

She added that, unlike Middleborough, the Cape is a tourist destination with people coming here on vacation from all over the world, especially in the summer, “so seasonally it can do nothing but help.” She said that the Middleborough comparison would be more valid if the town did not have attractions like the Cape Cod Canal and the railroad bridge.

“That’s what people come for and they’re most interested in, so commuter rail, it just goes hand in hand,” she said.

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