Members of the Bourne Transportation Advisory Committee agree that, when it comes to bringing commuter rail service to Buzzards Bay, the town is going to have to consider how it will provide enough parking for riders.
The committee is divided, however, on just how much attention parking should be given.
At the committee’s meeting on Thursday, June 5, member John G. Carroll argued that the group has bigger problems to work on when it comes to bringing commuter rail to Bourne. Mr. Carroll noted that during a forum on commuter rail held last January, residents who spoke up during the meeting did not consider parking the primary problem. He said people asked a lot of questions such as where the train will stop along Main Street before anyone asked where they will park their cars.
“That was not the primary problem here. I would like to say it’s not our first problem, either; it’s not our problem where somebody parks their car,” he said.
Mr. Carroll suggested that a more pressing problem to solve will be getting the train past the crossing at Academy Drive, so the gates can go up while the train is loading and unloading passengers. He also noted that more and more people every year will not need to park a car at the train station. He listed people who ride the bus, people who will be living at Keystone Place and riding a shuttle bus, those who are either too young or too old to drive, and people who do not own a car.
“Not every person that gets on that train needs for us to find a place for them to park their car,” he said.
Bourne Police Chief Dennis R. Woodside, a committee member, took the exact opposite view.
“With all due respect, parking the cars is clearly the biggest problem with a train down there,” Chief Woodside said.
The chief said Bourne is not a city so people rely on cars to get around town. He noted that there are public transportation options in town, “but they’re not heavily used.”
He questioned whether the town wants the north end of Main Street to be paved over for parking to accommodate train riders. He quoted an MBTA study of commuter rail which states that there should be room to park 1,300 vehicles—130 cars per acre for a total of 10 acres of land set aside for parking. He said the US Army Corps of Engineers is not likely to give up any of its parking, and cadets at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy are already renting parking spaces at homes in Taylor’s Point. Other cadets park in the Army Corps lot so they do not have to pay for parking. Even if they did pay, there is not enough room at MMA to accommodate everyone, he said, adding, “It gets worse every year.”
“I can’t wrap my head around how you’re going to park these cars,” he said.
Glenn D. Cannon, technical services director for the Cape Cod Commission, said he agreed with Mr. Carroll, that there is an effort to get people out of their automobiles. Mr. Cannon said a growing trend across the country is transit-oriented living facilities. He said young people are looking to live close to transit facilities, like a commuter rail station, so they do not have to drive all the time.
“You may want your car on Cape Cod, but if you’re a young professional, working in Boston, you may choose to live close to that station so you have that option,” he said.
Mr. Cannon also said that he lives in Middleborough, currently the final stop for commuter rail and the location from which train service would be extended. He said he drives past the station there every morning “and it is packed.”
“They had to expand it right off the bat,” he said.
Mr. Carroll said he agreed with the chief that parking will be an issue, but he feels the job of the advisory committee is to look at trends in transportation. He said that by the time commuter rail does arrive in Buzzards Bay, he believes there will be a shift in commuting trends.
“If the trend that we see elsewhere continues, there’s a lot of hope for Buzzards Bay to benefit from this,” he said.
Committee member Sallie K. Riggs pointed out that developers are looking to construct a new residential-retail complex at 25 Perry Avenue. The new complex would be built in three phases over six to eight years, with the first phase resulting in 144 residential units. She said the developers envision some of the people living there not wanting to own a car or not wanting to have to drive up to Boston. Others, she said, might work for a company in Boston, but choose to live in Bourne. The impending arrival of broadband cable on Main Street could make it easier for those people to telecommute, she said.
“People can work from home four days a week and go to work in Boston one day a week by walking down to the commuter train,” she said.
Ms. Riggs also brought up the idea of free permitting for residents, not as a solution for Buzzards Bay but as a way of showing that there might be options to explore. Committee chairman Wesley J. Ewell said another problem that should be addressed is the use of free spaces on Main Street or in individual businesses’ parking lots, which could have a negative impact on local business.
State Representative David T. Vieira (R-Falmouth), whose district includes Bourne, attended last week’s meeting. Mr. Vieira suggested the parking needs could be met with greater development of downtown Buzzards Bay.
He said the town needs to initiate talks between people who own property on Main Street but cannot afford to do anything with the land, and developers who have the money to invest in new construction and business.
“Then the issue of if we need 1,300 parking spaces, figuring out how many parking spaces can be captured with each of these little economic development opportunities,” he said.