Cape Commuter Rail Is A Real Possibility
By: James Kinsella
In Thomas S. Cahir’s opinion, the success this summer of the CapeFLYER train has demonstrated the viability of commuter rail between Buzzards Bay and Boston.
Mr. Cahir, the administrator of the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority, one of the three state agencies backing the CapeFLYER, said only 18 miles of high-quality, welded rail separates Buzzards Bay from Middleborough, the terminus of a commuter line that runs into South Station in Boston.
Mr. Cahir said Tuesday that bringing commuter rail to the Cape is among the frequent requests of CapeFLYER passengers.
As of this past weekend, the CapeFLYER, with 11,031 customers, already has tripled its break-even ridership number for the season. The state agencies accordingly are extending the conclusion of the train’s season from Labor Day to Columbus Day.
The CapeFLYER is operating without the support of a state subsidy.
Mr. Cahir said he plans to bring up the topic of commuter rail to Buzzards Bay when he meets next month with Governor Deval L. Patrick and the chairmen of the Senate and House transportation committees, state Senator Thomas M. McGee of Lynn and state Representative William Strauss of Mattapoisett.
Mr. Cahir said commuter rail would not be extended to Buzzards Bay without the backing of the local community.
But he said the enthusiastic response to the CapeFLYER, along with the high-quality track from Buzzards Bay to Middleborough, demonstrates that daily commuter service can succeed on the route.
Marie Oliva, president and chief executive officer of the Cape Cod Canal Region Chamber of Commerce, said Tuesday that the chamber “would be very open and receptive to such a proposal.”
The chamber draws its membership from the towns of Bourne, Sandwich and Wareham.
Ms. Oliva said commuter rail would be not just about Buzzards Bay, but also about nearby communities like Sandwich and Wareham.
She said that the town of Wareham, in particular, has been awaiting the arrival of Boston commuter rail for years.
In addition to providing a way for local residents to get to Boston-area jobs without taking to the highway, Ms. Oliva said the rail also would provide an alternative for people who want to take a day trip to Boston.
Kathleen Bavelock, executive director of the Sandwich Chamber of Commerce, said that organization favors “anything that relieves the congestion around the bridge.”
Ms. Bavelock sees Mr. Cahir expanding train service to and from the Cape “piece by piece.”
The Sandwich chamber, she said, supports the continued growth of public transportation.
Although Mr. Cahir backs extending commuter rail to Buzzards Bay, he said he does not favor further extending any such service to Hyannis. He objects on two grounds.
One is the lower quality of the railroad track from the south side of the Cape Cod Canal to Hyannis.
Unlike the welded rail from Buzzards Bay to Wareham, which Mr. Cahir said could accommodate trains operating at up to 70 miles per hour, the official said the Cape trackage would restrict trains to about 30 miles per hour. The cost of upgrading that track, he said, would be prohibitive.
The other objection concerns the quality of life of the Cape on the south side of the canal. Mr. Cahir said that nine or 10 trains zipping through those towns nine or 10 times a day is not conducive to the quality of life found there.