The number of cars attached to the weekend CapeFlyer train has been increased, and the new Bourne stop on the south side of the canal is a big reason why. That was according to Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority Administrator Thomas S. Cahir.
Mr. Cahir said that, over the weekend of August 9 through 11, the MBTA added another bi-level car to the CapeFlyer at the request of the transit authority. Two weeks earlier, for the first time, the train was loaded with passengers. That prompted the request for another train car, Mr. Cahir said.
With the added car, there was plenty of seating for all passengers, with room to spare, Mr. Cahir said. It also added another bathroom, which customers have been asking for, he said. He said that the new bi-level car will be a permanent addition to the CapeFlyer.
“We asked them to put the bi-level on because we had our biggest crowd ever, and we never want to have people who don’t have a seat,” Mr. Cahir said.
Kathy Jensen, consumer affairs manager for the CCRTA, pointed out that last weekend the CapeFlyer carried 500 more passengers than it had the same weekend last year. Ms. Jensen added that through last weekend, the CapeFlyer has serviced 11,652 passengers. Through the same period of time a year ago, the train had serviced 10,135 customers, she said.
“A strong lead over last year,” she said.
The CapeFlyer weekend train service runs between Boston’s South Station and Hyannis, with stops in Braintree, Brockton, Middleborough, Wareham, Buzzards Bay and now the new Bourne stop, off Sandwich Road, just under the Bourne Bridge. Service begins Memorial Day Weekend and ends Labor Day Weekend.
The new platform was the cause of some angst among town officials when it was built in May. Its sudden appearance upset members of the Bourne Board of Selectmen, who had not been made aware of its construction. The board felt that Mr. Cahir should have come before them to announce the project was about to commence.
Selectmen were also put off that they were not notified of the project by Town Administrator Thomas M. Guerino. Mr. Guerino serves as the chairman of the board of directors for the CCRTA.
The train platform beneath the Bourne Bridge was first proposed in the fall of 2014. The platform was approved by the Bourne Conservation Commission, with an order of conditions issued by the commission, making it subject to town wetlands bylaws.
Construction was supposed to take place in early 2015. Mr. Cahir announced in February 2015 that the project was being put on hold due to a substantial amount of snow that fell that winter. He said there was not enough time to put the project out to bid and have the platform built in time for Memorial Day Weekend, when the CapeFlyer goes into operation.
There was public outcry over the platform, with nightmare scenarios envisioned of parked cars overflowing the lot, waiting for people coming off the train. Some people said that anyone exiting on the south side of the canal would still need to navigate the traffic at the rotary. Residents argued that taking them off the bridge would not provide any advantage to passengers.
Mr. Cahir said the platform was almost built last year, but it was delayed again because of other MassDOT projects in the Boston area. He said that the benefits of the platform were so significant, it was decided to go forward with it this year. Passenger response has met expectations, he said.
“People talk about how convenient it is, that they don’t have to go over the bridge. One person told me it changed his quality of life,” Mr. Cahir said.
He said that a big part of the successful operation of the CapeFlyer is the shuttle bus that the CCRTA offers passengers. That takes cars off the bridge and out of the rotary, he said. The platform sits on Army Corps of Engineers property and a state-owned rail right-of-way. The Army Corps initially expressed similar fears about parking, he said.
“Now they say it’s great, it’s wonderful. People can see scenic vistas, and there’s minimal impact to the community,” he said.
With the CapeFlyer boasting such a success story, the question arises whether service will be extended one way or another—either starting before Memorial Day or ending after Labor Day, perhaps Columbus Day weekend. Mr. Cahir said there are no plans to expand.
Such an expansion was tested in the CapeFlyer’s inaugural season, 2013. Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce chief executive officer Wendy K. Northcross asked that service be extended that year to Columbus Day weekend. Mr. Cahir said the CCRTA obliged the chamber, but the extension was not profitable.
“We were having a great year leading up to Labor Day, and then ridership declined. We only broke even,” he said.
Mr. Cahir said that the CCRTA barely broke even on the CapeFlyer that first year, and despite annual calls from customers to extend service past Labor Day, it will not be done. He pointed out that the CCRTA is responsible for all operating costs for the CapeFlyer.