Cape Cod Times

By Ethan Genter

April 15. 2016 2:00AM

MBTA seeks ideas for funding Bourne commuter rail

Details of pilot project get first public airing, but financial support still a question mark.

BUZZARDS BAY — Without the support of their oversight board, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority officials looked to the community Thursday night for ideas on how to get people between Bourne and Boston by train.

Bringing the details of the proposed commuter rail pilot project to the Cape for the first time, MBTA General Manager Frank DePaola said the plan would have Massachusetts Coastal Railroad feed riders between Buzzards Bay and the current final stop in Middleboro-Lakeville for $3 a trip, with a stop in Wareham.

Under the proposal, three rides in the morning would start at 5:20 a.m., getting riders into South Station at around 7 a.m. Four returning rides would begin at 2:10 p.m., with the final trip leaving the city at 6:52 p.m. The pilot program would begin in September and run for seven months.

The decision to go to a feeder system, instead of just extending the commuter rail, revolved around the size of the MBTA’s trains. DePaola said they would be too big and would block traffic on Academy Drive, but Mass Coastal Railroad’s trains could fit.

The estimated monthly operating cost for Mass Coastal would be $200,000, DePaola said. Each trip could carry about 360 riders.

The MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board gave scathing reviews to the pilot project last week, saying it did not make financial sense given other cuts the agency was making.

At the public meeting at the Bourne Memorial Veterans Community Center, Town Administrator Thomas Guerino countered that the town decided to join the MBTA during some of its darkest hours, and he hoped to see some return.

“We’ve made a commitment,” Guerino said. “We need to see something for our investment.”

Bourne voters decided to join the MBTA at last year’s town meeting. Annual assessments are estimated at $40,000 but could be as high as $82,000, all without a promise of commuter rail.

All MBTA services, with the exception of the Cape Flyer, which operates on weekends during the peak summer season, are subsidized, DePaola said. But the projections for the subsidies required for the seven-month pilot program were much higher than other commuter projects, he said.

State Rep. David Vieira, R-Falmouth, said he planned to reach out to the Cape Cod Canal Region Chamber of Commerce to see if advertising dollars would be available. Vieira said he also would work with the Cape Cod Commission to disseminate more information on the project and to possibly collect feedback on whether the public would use the service.

Linda Zuern, a former Bourne selectman, questioned how parking would work. DePaola said the MBTA would not charge for parking and that would be more of a local or state decision. Zuern asked if it was possible for parking to be stationed more in Wareham.

“It would be great for Buzzards Bay,” Zuern said, saying it would alleviate existing traffic concerns in town.

Selectman Michael Blanton said the town’s decision to join the MBTA, and the possibility of commuter rail service, was giving Buzzards Bay a chance to get bigger developments for the first time in decades.

“That’s all happening now,” Blanton said. “This is the reason the town voted overwhelmingly to join the MBTA.”

— Follow Ethan Genter on Twitter: @EthanGenterCCT.