For Rafael Varela, the hands-down choice Friday, May 23, to get from his job in Boston to his home in Buzzards Bay was the CapeFLYER passenger train.
Rather than battling the traffic on the highway out of Boston at the start of the Memorial Day weekend, a ticket on the CapeFLYER gave Mr. Varela the chance to walk around the parlor car, schmooze with new friends, and generally relax.
“It’s just brilliant,” he said of the train’s concept.
The triumvirate of state and Cape Cod agencies orchestrating the CapeFLYER hope that thousands of potential riders in the coming months will see the train the same way.
Last May, the state Department of Transportation, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, and the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority introduced the CapeFLYER, a passenger train scheduled to operate between Boston and Hyannis on summer weekends and the Fourth of July holiday.
The idea was to make use of existing infrastructure (the rail line between Boston and Hyannis) and equipment (MBTA locomotives and passenger cars) to provide an alternate Cape travel option that would help ease traffic congestion over the vehicle bridges.
Original plans called for the CapeFLYER season to run between the Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends.
But far more riders than expected took the train, leading the agencies to extend the CapeFLYER’s season to Columbus Day.
Last Friday, the CapeFLYER returned for its second season. The train, which left South Station in Boston at 5:12 PM and arrived in Hyannis shortly before 8 PM, carried 315 passengers on the trip, up 50 percent from last year’s first trip.
The train does a round trip on Friday afternoons and evenings. On Saturdays and Sundays, the train travels to Hyannis in the morning, and returns to Boston in the evening.
Last Friday, an upbeat mood filled the parlor car as the train rolled steadily along. Riders included commuters who were tapping another way to get home, as well as visitors on their way to the Cape or islands for a long weekend.
Cathy Serrano, who has a home in West Yarmouth, plied Thomas S. Cahir of Pocasset, administrator of the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority, with effusive thanks.
Mr. Cahir, informally credited as the train’s “architect,” was sporting a light blue CapeFLYER cap and a dark blue blazer. He had taken the bus from Hyannis to South Station to be able to ride the first train of the season.
Unlike trying to get from Boston to Hyannis on the highway on Friday afternoons, when “all you do is get stressed and get mad,” Ms. Serrano said the train offered its riders the chance to relax, talk to other passengers, and enjoy the trip.
The parlor car, which was doing double-duty as a jury-rigged bike rack car, was playing host to a number of bicyclists.
They included Corinne Clifford, who is from Dennis but now lives in Boston. As a new bike rider around the city, she was excited to ride the train and be able to bring her bicycle back to Dennis for the weekend.
Shortly after the train left South Station, a state transportation official later was able to find her an outlet on the car wall to plug in her electronic device.
Bicyclists David Duncan of Dorchester and Norman Zalkind of West Newton were using the CapeFLYER as one leg of an extended multi-modal excursion.
They planned to get off the train in Buzzards Bay, bicycle to Sandwich, stay overnight, and then ride their bikes Saturday to Provincetown, subsequently taking the ferry back to Boston.
The CapeFLYER price for carrying the bikes? Free. The same price applies to children under 12.
Non-bicyclists on the train included Jacquelyn Stathopoulos of East Sandwich, who had made fast friends with Susan Taccini of Boston.
The two women illustrated two poles of personal CapeFLYER planning.
Ms. Stathopoulos, who works in Kendall Square in Cambridge, said she had “plotted and planned” for days to be able to ride the train last Friday, including going out of her way to take the Peter Pan bus from Buzzards Bay to Boston yesterday morning.
Ms. Taccini, on the other hand, decided on impulse at 1 that afternoon to take the train on a weekend trip to her sister’s house on the Cape, and did.
Later in the weekend, shortly after 9 AM Sunday, a number of passengers (with and without bikes) waited at the Buzzards Bay station to board the Hyannis-bound CapeFLYER.
They included Paul Varney of Providence, Rhode Island, who was taking his girlfriend, Tracey Altieri of Warwick, Rhode Island, on a trip that he said held a surprise.
The surprise was a lightning day trip to Nantucket. On Tuesday, Mr. Varney said his cover was blown as soon as they got to the Hyannis Transportation Center and went to board a shuttle for the Steamship Authority ferry to Nantucket.
They walked the beach on Nantucket. “It was beautiful,” Mr. Varney said.
Later that afternoon, they retraced their journey, arriving via the CapeFLYER back at their car at the Buzzards Bay station about 7:40 PM.
“It totally worked out,” Mr. Varney said.
But Mr. Varney also said the CapeFLYER website needs to provide more and better information about the service.
Seeing from the website that the CapeFLYER offers a Wareham stop, Mr. Varney originally went there, but there was no stop to be found. (A state transportation official said a new Wareham stop is under construction and likely will open within three weeks.)
Mr. Varney said he then drove to Buzzards Bay to board the train there.
But he said he said the site had provided no guidance as to the location of the station. Nor did the site or street signage provide guidance to the train stop. If he had not previously been from Falmouth, he said, he might have run into trouble finding the stop in time to board the train.
Still, the CapeFLYER favorably impressed him.
“I would definitely use it again,” he said. “It beats sitting in bridge traffic.”
More information about the CapeFLYER, including schedules and fares, can be found at capeflyer.com.
(Video by Tieki Magyar.)