Trial Run Planned This Spring For Cape Rail Service
By: Diana T. Barth
Although all the details have not yet been worked out, a trial run for passenger rail service between Buzzards Bay and Middleborough is in the planning for next spring, Thomas S. Cahir told members of the Cape Cod Canal Region Chamber of Commerce’s Bourne Committee this week.
Mr. Cahir, the new executive director of the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority, said he wanted what he termed “a pilot project” of Cape Rail Inc.’s proposal to connect the Cape’s passenger trains with the MBTA service to that town.
John Kennedy, president and CEO of Cape Rail Inc., who also attended the Wednesday morning meeting at Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical School, has been discussing the possibility of that connection for more than a year. He has said that it would cost about $6 million in capital to put into operation, but that he thought the operation would not require any subsequent subsidies.
Mr. Cahir, who said after the meeting that he had yet to see a railroad that was completely self-sustaining, wants a period of trial runs to assess the interest and ridership.
He praised Mr. Kennedy’s work, however, saying that all of the positive changes in rail in southeastern Massachusetts have Mr. Kennedy’s fingerprints on them.
He told Bourne Committee attendees that he was opposed to commuter rail on Cape Cod; the geography will not allow for 70-mile-per-hour trains, but that he is very supportive of making passenger rail service happen.
When the new intermodal transportation center was built in Hyannis, a platform that would allow for train service was incorporated, he said, looking ahead to a bigger emphasis on rail.
Mr. Cahir is the former deputy secretary of rail and intermodal programs for the state’s Executive Office of Transportation, as well as a former legislator, serving in that capacity for 14 years.
In introducing him, Town Moderator Robert W. Parady, who sits on the chamber board, said that it was fitting that Mr. Cahir returned to the Cape to serve on the CCRTA.
Mr. Cahir’s father, Jeremiah Cahir, was a signatory to the agreement that created the local transportation authority, Mr. Parady said.
That authority, unlike the MBTA, does not assess abutting towns for services to their neighbors. A town is assessed only for the services it uses. It does not own any transportation systems, but contracts with others to run the services it provides, Mr. Parady said. He, himself, served the CCRTA for 25 years, most of them as its chairman.
Mr. Cahir said his primary duty as head of the regional authority was to run the Cape’s bus service, including the b-Bus and the WHOOSH service.
On that front, he said the authority was using updated software to make the dial-a-ride service more effective and was adding more fixed routes, a less expensive way of providing transport than the on-demand system.
He said he has hired some new personnel, including George Slade, a Bourne Finance Committee member. Mr. Slade, he said, would be the authority’s chief financial officer, a new position, but one Mr. Cahir deemed essential, given the authority’s budget and responsibilities.
The CCRTA runs on federal funding and state subsidies.
Sandra A. Vickery of the Bourne Council on Aging said she was grateful for the one new and one replacement bus her agency received. The COA provided 7,000 rides last year, she said.
She said that the council only has one bus driver, and when the agency cannot schedule a trip, they call the regional transit authority. She asked Mr. Cahir if he would consider charging a flat fee for that service.
He said he was already working on simplifying the fee structure, acknowledging that the system is complicated and people have trouble understanding their bills.
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