The traffic to Cape Cod is nightmarish enough on summer weekends that taking a train instead seems like a no-brainer. But when the state subsidized rail service from New York City to Hyannis in the 1980s, it petered out after a few years.
So while the announcement last week by the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority that it will run trains to Hyannis on summer weekends, this time leaving from Boston, is certainly welcome, local authorities will need to make a long-term commitment to the service, complete with adequate marketing, to ensure this attempt succeeds.
The biggest sticking point may be speed. From Boston, the rail trip is expected to take about two hours. That’s slower than driving, even allowing for some delays. The slow travel time is mostly because the last 42 miles between Middleborough and Hyannis aren’t equipped to handle train speeds greater than 30 mph.
Still, even a slow train will be preferable to stressful highway gridlock for many travelers, especially if the food and drink are good enough that the service can market itself as an extension of the vacation experience. And the authority promises to make sure there are local transit options meeting travelers at the station in Hyannis.
The $160,000 to $180,000 cost of the service is a bargain; it will piggyback on MBTA commuter trains that already run as far as Middleborough. And the state owns the tracks, which, like many Massachusetts railroad corridors outside the Boston area, are underused now. Putting the rail route to Hyannis to greater use should help ease a chronic complaint about travel to one of the state’s most economically important vacation spots.