Weekend MBTA Passenger Trains Coming To Cape Cod
By: Diana T. Barth
Weekend passenger train service to Cape Cod via the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority’s rail system is set to be up and running by springtime.
While such rail service has been much discussed over the past two decades, plans are now in place to have the service operating by about May 24, said Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority administrator Thomas S. Cahir.
The Cape trains will have stops both in Hyannis and Buzzards Bay.
Mr. Cahir told Bourne’s new Transportation Advisory Committee on Monday that although the final schedule has not been set, five trains per weekend are expected to run between Cape Cod and the commuter rail’s Middleborough/Lakeville station.
For 13 weekends next spring and summer, the first of the connector trains will reach Buzzards Bay on Friday at about 5 PM, he said, with trains running in the morning and the evening of both Saturday and
Sunday. A special car for bikes will be included on some of the runs.
A Monday morning train is also under discussion.
The rail effort is not an expansion of the MBTA, Mr. Cahir said, but a service of the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority, and will be called “CapeFLYER.”
Planning for the service, discussed in concept for more than two decades, Mr. Cahir said, has been ongoing with all of the stakeholders for more than a year, and will fulfill a goal he has had since he took over as head of the regional transit authority.
Passengers could potentially leave Boston’s South Station, for example, for a car-free day trip to the Upper Cape, Hyannis and beyond.
The trains will all stop at the transit authority’s Hyannis Transportation Center, 215 Iyannough Road, so passengers will be able to link up with ground transportation, including bus service to the Lower Cape, Cape Cod Central Railroad’s scenic and dinner trains, and more. Visitors might ride the train to Cape Cod and take a ferry or a bus back to Boston. Connections to Hy-Line Cruises and its island ferries have also been proposed.
At a train fare of about $30 round trip, a ridership of about 635 people per weekend would allow the new service to break even, Mr. Cahir said. Operational costs for a summer have been calculated at about $150,000 to $160,000, he said.
A concession service selling items such as Cape Cod Potato Chips or other Cape-made products is under discussion and might be allowed on the trains once they leave Middleborough/Lakeville station, he said, providing an additional source of income.
Mr. Cahir said the service is designed to “get people out of their cars and over the bridge.”
Members of Bourne’s transportation advisory committee immediately zeroed in on one of the issues: a lack of parking in Buzzards Bay for people taking the train north to Boston. Mr. Cahir noted, however, that the train will only run in the summer, when spaces normally used by cadets at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy will be available. He said he believes the parking issues can be solved, a contention that was backed by Cape Cod Canal Region Chamber of Commerce President and Executive Director Marie Oliva.
Another sticking point brought up by committee members was prompted by the fact that the Cape Cod Central Railroad’s new Polar Express trains were blocking access to Taylor’s Point in Buzzards Bay for up to half an hour as they took on passengers. That problem was solved by a decision to uncouple and later pick up a railroad car, leaving the road to that residential district and to the Massachusetts Maritime Academy open.
Mr. Cahir said the Cape transit authority board was aware of that issue, as well.
He said he saw a great advantage to having the service in place, along with the train stop in Buzzards Bay, available prior to the 2014 Cape Cod Canal Centennial celebrations.
Mr. Cahir also updated the Bourne committee’s members on the ridership of the recently implemented Bourne/Sandwich fixed route service. He said ridership of those buses is growing, albeit slowly.
Committee member John E. York of Cataumet suggested that Mr. Cahir consider starting early morning buses in Falmouth or Cataumet, bringing them to the commuter parking lot in Sagamore prior to the departure of the last morning buses to Boston. That, he said, would allow commuters to get to Boston without the use of a car. Currently, Mr. York said, the buses arrive in Sagamore after 9 AM to find that the last morning buses to Boston have all already left.
Mr. Cahir said the Cape transit authority was not implemented as a feeder service for the Plymouth & Brockton buses that commuters use, but that people were free to use the authority’s dial-a-ride service to get to the Sagamore bus stop if they needed to do so. He said he does not think there is enough potential ridership to prompt a change in the current fixed route schedule.
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