After years without public transportation to Cape Cod, the MBTA and Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority kicked off the Cape Flyer on Friday, with weekend service from Boston to Hyannis.
The maiden voyage included vacationers, railroad enthusiasts, and former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, his wife Kitty and their 9-year-old grandson Peter who were heading for a family weekend in Pocasset. Dukakis said the service was a longtime coming and frequently announced to passengers there was a 5-mile backup at the Cape Cod canal as the train chugged through Middleboro and Wareham.
“We hate sitting in traffic,” said Kitty Dukakis, who plans to use the service whenever she visits the Cape.
Sara Lavoie, spokesman for MassDOT, said weekend traffic over the bridges averaged 230,000 vehicles last year and peaked at 255,000 on July 4th weekend.
The seasonal pilot service departs from South Station in Boston on Fridays at 5:12 p.m., with stops at Braintree, Middleboro/Lakeville and the Buzzards Bay stations before arriving in Hyannis at 7:45 p.m. Morning and evening trains will run on Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets are $35 for the two-hour round trip from Boston and bicycles are free.
For the first time ever, Steve Blackman was able to used public transportation to get from his hometown of Chicago to Nantucket. Blackman was headed for Figawi Race Weekend, and saved hundreds on airfare. Blackman was one of the many passengers that lined up in the refreshment car once the train hit Middleboro. While alcohol is not allowed on MBTA lines, the bar opens once the Cape Flyer hits a different line in Middleboro.
The Cape Flyer cost more than $20 million to go online and Thomas Cahir, chief of the CCRT said he needs 700 riders a weekend to break even. There were 230 passengers on Friday and 130 on Saturday, he said.
John Kennedy, CCRT general manager, has lobbied for rail service to the Cape for years. He said the service was decades in the making and is optimistic it will expand to daily commuter rail.
The Cape Flyer won’t stop in Wareham this year, but Salvador Pina, director of Wareham’s Community and Economic Development is planning for service in 2014. “We’d like a stop next year, without a doubt. It would help economic activity.”