by Dave Towers
No, this does not refer to Superman or any type of aircraft. CapeFLYER is the new rail service between Boston and Hyannis, MA which began operating on Memorial Day weekend. This service was introduced by the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority (CCRTA), in coordination with MassDOT and the MBTA, to create a car-free vacation as well as better multi-modal connections and to contribute to the “greening” of the state transportation system. The train is scheduled to operate on weekends over the summer between Boston South Station and the Hyannis Transportation Center, making stops in Braintree, Middleborough and Buzzards Bay.
I decided to give CapeFLYER a try for a day trip on Sunday during the inaugural weekend, along with my wife and another couple. There was little traffic during our early morning drive into Boston, and parking was available and reasonable ($8 for the day) at South Station. We boarded the train and it departed promptly at 8:00 AM, reaching Hyannis at 10:30 AM – about 10 minutes late. The ride was relaxing and relatively smooth, and no one seemed concerned about the schedule. Up to Middleborough, the train runs on the newer MBTA Old Colony commuter line track and travels at a decent speed. Between Middleborough and Hyannis, however, the rails are jointed and the speed limit is 30 mph. There are plans to upgrade the track which would shorten the trip.
Once in Hyannis, we had eight hours to spend before our return and easily filled the time by strolling along Main Street, checking out the shops and having a leisurely lunch. We also tried the free trolley bus which circulates around Hyannis and is a nice way to see the town. The driver even stopped so we could get coffee and a muffin at Dunkin Donuts – the coffee in the cafe car on the train left much to be desired and the food selection was limited. On a warmer and sunnier day, we might have taken a ferry to Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket. In addition, there are bus connections to other areas of Cape Cod and you can also bring your bicycle with you on the train to explore the Cape.
On the return trip, the CapeFLYER left Hyannis promptly at 6:30 PM. The highlight of this part of the journey was getting the opportunity to have an extended conversation with former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, who boarded the train in Buzzards Bay on the way back to Boston. He was traveling with his wife Kitty and a grandson (who loves trains as much as his grandfather). The Governor, who is a long-time staunch supporter of public transportation, was pleased with the ridership and has high hopes for the train service this time around (it didn’t last very long when it was previously introduced in the 1980’s). He noted that there was a five-mile traffic backup going towards the Cape when he took the inaugural train down the Friday before.
The train returned to Boston South Station at 9:05 PM, about 20 minutes late after a delay waiting for the railroad drawbridge over the Cape Cod Canal to lower – again, no one on board seemed to mind. Being at South Station, we were easily able to have a late dinner in nearby Chinatown before returning home. All in all, it was a very pleasant day and we expect to make the trip again. Hopefully there will be sufficient demand and funding to allow the CapeFLYER to continue running for a long time to come, and perhaps even to allow for expanded service somewhere down the road – I mean track!