Posts Tagged ‘trains’

CapeFlyer Takes Off

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

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.

CapeFLYER

CapeFLYER

Hyannis Transportation Center

Hyannis Transportation Center

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!

Trains and Planes

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

by Lance Meister

A recent article got me thinking about traveling by train and by plane and how we see and use each mode of travel.  Planes are the get you there quick, long distance mode of travel.  Fast and glamorous.  Trains are the slow, leisurely, short distance mode of travel.  Utilitarian and functional.  At least, that’s the way many people see them.  Now, I am admittedly a bit of a train fan, but it’s clear that high speed rail (HSR) is changing those perceptions of travel around the world, even in the US. 

The article from China is a dramatic example of this phenomenon of trains competing equally with planes on time.  In Spain the traffic between Madrid and Barcelona (once the busiest air corridor in the world) has gone from 90% of the passengers on planes to over 50% of the passengers now on trains.  In the US, the Acela service on the Northeast Corridor between Boston and New York and New York and Washington has 37% and 50% of the market share, respectively.  That’s in the US!  My own anecdotal experience is that when I am going to Manhattan for work, I take the train every time.  It just makes sense. 

When traveling from Boston to New York, the train does take 3:15 minutes and the plane only 45 minutes, but that’s not the entire story.  You have to be at the airport at least an hour early.  There’s security, boarding, taxing, etc. to be taken into account.  In addition, you arrive in New York at either JFK or LaGuardia, and have to get into the city from there, which can add significant time.  The total travel time is equivalent, and at times, the HSR even has an edge.  Imagine if the Acela could go 150 mph on the entire corridor!

Some people see this as a competition, but in reality, the two modes of travel have different purposes.  For city pairs within a few hundred miles, true HSR makes sense and can be significantly shorter than air travel.  For longer distances, such as Boston to Chicago, or Boston to Los Angeles, the plane makes sense every time. 

An example of this is in Spain. The airlines not only didn’t fight the train over price and service between Madrid and Barcelona, but actually welcomed the trains.  The introduction of service allowed them to free up a significant number of landing slots for much more profitable international flights and use the trains to get people to the airports for the flights.  It was the proverbial “win-win” situation for all. 

We have to realize that we can only pave so many roads, or create so many new runways, much less airports.  HSR can be a great option at shorter distances, and can be an excellent form of travel.  Each mode has its advantages and disadvantages, and its own primary purpose.  In many countries, this is already a reality.  There’s a lot of hope that HSR in the US will come into its own and be a real travel mode, not just in the Northeast Corridor.