In May 2015, Bourne residents voted with a significant margin to join the MBTA. The vote came after more than a year of study by Town leaders (see below) and followed one of the MBTA’s worst performance seasons. In April 2016, MBTA leaders conducted a public forum in Bourne to introduce the concept of a “Pilot Feeder Service,” a way to test the potential ridership of a train from Buzzards Bay to the Lakevile/Middleborough station. See Post: Commuter Rail Forum. The success of a summer-time, weekend passenger train had triggered intense interest in extending commuter rail an additional 18 miles from the Middleborough/Lakeville stop to Buzzards Bay. The idea quickly earned support from state transportation leaders and Bourne residents. A public hearing in January 2014 demonstrated energetic support. In the spring of 2014 the Chair of the Town’s Board of Selectmen encouraged the Board to make the commuter train extension one of its goals.
Then the Town’s Transportation Advisory Committee took up the question: would commuter rail be a benefit to Bourne’s Downtown? In May 2015 Town voters answered: “yes.”
The Committee defined a series of questions that members thought voters were likely to ask. The Town’s Board of Selectmen requested that the Cape Cod Commission planning staff work with the Committee to provide technical assistance in identifying the answers.
The first item under discussion was a definition of the process to join the MBTA. It was soon defined as requiring two steps: 1) a Town Meeting vote was required to authorize adding a question to the next Town election ballot as to whether the Town should join the MBTA. That vote easily passed the February 2015 Town Meeting. 2) the May Town election ballot included the question about joining the MBTA. It also easily passed with voters approval.
Once the process was defined, the Committee continued researching such questions as: how much will the Town be assessed, and where will commuters’ cars park? In March 2015 the Committee accepted a report from Commission staff that responded to the questions. After additional deliberation, the Committee recommended to the Board of Selectmen that they support a vote to join the MBTA. The Committee’s conclusion was:
Our research has convinced us that bringing commuter rail service to Buzzards Bay will provide the catalyst needed to trigger redevelopment of underutilized properties along Main Street and create a vibrant downtown for Bourne. There are enormous benefits to be gained by the entire town from this action with very little financial liability and few potential problems. The Transportation Advisory Committee supports a positive vote to join the MBTA in order to send a strong signal to our elected official and potential developers and investors that Bourne wants commuter rail service.