As I work across Cape Cod with homes for sale and listing real estate for clients, it’s hard to disagree that most roads and thoroughfares are indeed clogged. Everyone talks about solutions ranging from a third bridge, a tunnel or providing for easier access via bus or bicycle.
Well, early last week transportation officials announced they will re-open the Boston-to-Hyannis passenger train service. Called the CapeFLYER, it’s a weekend train service proposed to run five trips from Friday night through Sunday night only during the summer season, beginning on Memorial Day weekend. Plans call for it to be overseen by the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority (CCRTA) using Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) trains on the Middleboro/Lakeville line with stops in Wareham and Buzzards Bay.
The goal is to help alleviate traffic on the roads around the Cape Cod Canal and is already being promoted as part of an overseas marketing campaign for visitors arriving in Boston from other countries, Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce CEO Wendy Northcross was quoted in The Cape Cod Times. "It's really targeted to the visitor and not the commuter," Northcross said. This then begs the question why the service can’t be run all year-round?
While there's been talk of extending the service in future years, CCRTA administrator Thomas Cahir put the brakes on the idea. "As far as I'm concerned, there will never be commuter service," he also was quoted recently in The Cape Cod Times. Last year Cahir, the unofficial local transportation czar, gave three solid why-nots.
1) Quality of life. "Think of all the homes that are in close proximity to the tracks," he told me, pointing to the likely opposition from residents worried about the mini-earthquake that would be regularly rumbling past their homes.
2) Public safety. "There's a number of (railroad) crossings around here. For safety reasons, you don't want high-speed trains on the Cape."
3) Cost/infrastructure. Even if you could railroad local opponents into acceptance, the big problem is the cost of the infrastructure upgrade, which would be stupendous. The tracks on this side of the bridge are well maintained, but they are built only for trains traveling no more than 30 mph.
Moving at such low-speeds, MBTA officials have said the trip would take two hours and 40 minutes. And "that's ridiculous," Cahir noted. Seems hard to convince large numbers of people to abandon the creature comforts of their cars for a slow-moving train, even with a bar-car and Wi-Fi Internet service, planned with the summer trains.
A staff reporter (Sean Gonsalves) recently contacted Barnstable Municipal Airport manager Roland "Bud" Breault. A major upgrade was recently completed at the Hyannis airport with the expectation that airline passenger traffic would continue to increase, a trend until about six years ago. Breault informed Gonsalves that the number of passengers using the airport (what they call "enplanements") reached its peak in 2006 at 203,240.
"This year," he said, "We will apparently not break 100,000." Officials had hoped the decline in airport users would have "bottomed out at about 100,000." And, he said, "We had hoped the economy would rebound and start to turn the numbers around."
Breault remains confident the turn-around will happen eventually. "When? Who knows? If I knew that, I would be a wealthy man." He did mention another way to boost airport business. "If we can get another air carrier to start operating out of Hyannis to another major hub, such as New York, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Orlando, and so forth. Anything would help," adding that just about every day the airport gets inquiries about service to New York. "One of our strategic goals is to work on air service development to do that very thing." Sounds like a big IF.
If it's built will they come? That's another big IF. And even IF, maybe they won't come — except by motor vehicle according to some.
Transportation officials have no easy task, as frustrated motorists look for solutions. In the interim I will continue to travel between Plymouth and Cape homes for sale and my real estate listings and hope I can negotiate the traffic. At least I know the back roads and when and where to avoid major arteries.