Mass. lawmakers propose extending MBTA commuter rail service to the Cape

A CapeFLYER train arrives in Buzzards Bay during a test run  in May 2013. (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)
A CapeFLYER train arrives in Buzzards Bay during a test run in May 2013. (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

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Summer ain’t over yet. We have three straight days of heat ahead. With the humidity, the apparent temperature will feel like it’s in the mid-to-upper 90s across much of Massachusetts, according to the National Weather Service. Looking for relief? Head to the coast.

Now to the news:

The seasonal CapeFLYER train made its final runs of the year between Boston and Hyannis this weekend. But as the summer tourism season comes to a close, a group of local elected officials are pushing to make passenger train service to Cape Cod a year-round thing. “The CapeFLYER is a tourist train,” says state Rep. Dylan Fernandes, who filed a bill last week to bring daily, year-round MBTA commuter rail service to — or at least toward — the Cape. “And we’re for it. We’re supportive of it,” Fernandes told WBUR’s Dave Faneuf. “But we want service that focuses on the 300,000 residents that live here.”

  • Why? Fernandes points to the fact that the Cape’s population appears to have actually grown over the past couple years and that half of its residents commute to the mainland side of the canal. A 2021 study found that extending commuter rail service to nearby Buzzards Bay would reduce car travel by 10 million to 16 million miles a year.
  • The tracks are already there. But currently, the CapeFLYER only makes a few trips on weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day. And due to poor track conditions on the Cape, trains are limited to 30 mph once they go over the canal. The $40 roundtrip from South Station to Hyannis takes two and a half hours each way.
  • Fernandes’ bill proposes a two-step approach:
  1. First, it would require the T to extend year-round commuter rail service from the Middleborough/Lakeville line to Buzzards Bay within a year of passage. (This, he says, is a “relatively cheap” near-term solution that avoids issues with the Cape tracks, as well as having to coordinate with the U.S. Army Corps to lower the lift railroad bridge across the Cape Cod Canal.) According to the bill, that means at least three trains in the morning and in the evening on weekdays.
  2. Meanwhile, the bill would require the MBTA to study the feasibility of extending year-round service to Falmouth, Bourne, Barnstable, Yarmouth and Sandwich. That includes the costs and benefits, as well as possible funding sources.
  • Reality check: This isn’t the first time lawmakers have pushed to revive Cape rail. In 2016, a similar pilot proposal was shelved by the MBTA’s oversight board, including the state’s soon-to-be acting transportation secretary, Monica Tibbits-Nutt. “I think there are better things to use our money on,” she said at the time. (For now, Fernandes’ bill has just two cosponsors.)
  • Flashback: A century ago, passenger trains used to go all the way to Provincetown. However, the last time the Cape had daily year-round service was 1959. Read more about the history here.

More classrooms in Boston are now better equipped to take on the heat as the new school year begins. WBUR’s Carrie Jung reports that the city has installed thousands of new window air conditioner units across dozens of school buildings as part of Mayor Michelle Wu’s “Green New Deal for Boston Public Schools.”

  • Then and now: Last year, only 20 BPS schools had AC units. Since then, officials have installed more than 3,800 AC units across 78 schools, according to a back-to-school memo released last week. Jung reports there’s another 19 slated to have AC installed, too.
  • Zoom out: NPR reports that a lack of air conditioners remains a problem for an estimated 36,000 public schools nationwide.

Heads up, it’s election day in Massachusetts’ second largest city. Worcester is holding preliminary elections for its City Council and School Committee races today. There’s a total of five competitive races across the city, including two wide-open City Council contests.

P.S.— Three-time U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky will be at CitySpace this Saturday for “Proverbs of Limbo,” a combination poetry night and jazz concert. Proceeds from the event will support the next 25 years of the Favorite Poem Project. Get your tickets here.


Nik DeCosta-Klipa Newsletter Editor
Nik DeCosta-Klipa is the newsletter editor for WBUR.



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